Smart new water, energy laws take effect Sept. 1

This Friday, nearly 800 bills passed by the Legislature earlier this year take effect and become law.  Several of these new laws closely align with Texas 2036’s goals for the state’s energy and water policies. Here are a few to know about.

A path forward for Texas’ hydrogen policy

Hydrogen offers the promise and the potential to be a core component of Texas’ energy expansion. Given this opportunity, House Bill 2847 by Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, clarifies that the Railroad Commission has regulatory jurisdiction over hydrogen pipelines and underground geologic storage.

More importantly, HB 2847 establishes the Texas Hydrogen Production Policy Council within the RRC for developing the state’s policy and regulatory framework for hydrogen’s growth and development.Although the bill takes effect this Friday, the RRC has already taken the initiative to invite interested individuals to apply for membership to this new, critically-important policy council.

Developing a water workforce

Texas’ water industry faces the challenge of not having enough qualified personnel to operate and maintain the over 10,000 water and wastewater systems in the state. HB 1845 by Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, aims to address this growing problem by requiring  the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to establish a provisional certification program for individuals without high school diplomas to serve as entry-level water or wastewater system operators. 

The pathway established by HB 1845 aligns with the state’s official workforce development strategy of expanding opportunities for work-based learning experiences.

An innovative approach to geothermal energy

Texas has nearly 8,000 abandoned oil and gas wells according to the RRC’s data. Senate Bill 1210 by Sen. Cesar Blanco, D-El Paso, authorizes a geothermal energy operator to take possession of an abandoned oil or gas well for the purposes of geothermal energy production. This innovative bill expands the potential for geothermal energy development within Texas while addressing the problem of abandoned oil and gas wells.

Eliminating regulatory disincentives for smarter water policy

Before Sept. 1, if a water or wastewater utility other than a city or a county took control of another water system noncompliant with health, safety or environmental protection requirements, those regulatory liabilities would transfer to the absorbing utility. This served as a regulatory disincentive for larger or well-run utilities to consolidate utilities that had noncompliance challenges. 

HB 3232 by Rep. Glenn Rogers, R-Mineral Wells, removes this regulatory disincentive by providing “safe harbor” protection to healthy water and wastewater utilities that absorb distressed systems as part of a regional solution. 

The bill authorizes the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to enter into a compliance agreement with an absorbing utility where it will not initiate an enforcement action against that utility for existing or anticipated violations accrued by the utility being absorbed. This can only happen provided that there is a compliance agreement in place to address the problems contributing to noncompliance. 

The changes made by HB 3232 reform an existing regulatory disincentive for the regionalization of water and wastewater service, and will contribute to the delivery of more efficient water and wastewater service delivery through the development of regional solutions.

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