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Surface Casing Program at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ): Fifty Years of Ground Water Protection Recommendations for the Petroleum Industry

Robert J. Traylor
TCEQ, Austin, TX

In 1955 the Surface Casing Program began at a predecessor agency to TCEQ. This was a historic time for ground water protection in oil and gas operations in Texas. Both the petroleum industry and the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) decided that the RRC had a conflict-of-interest in protecting ground water and regulating the petroleum industry. To add integrity to the RRC ground water protection program, the RRC changed rules to acquire geologic advice from geologists at the old Board of Water Engineers on protected ground waters depths. The geological advisory role of the TCEQ Surface Casing Program and the RRC is unique for state agencies. Also, no other state addresses ground water protection with this checks-and-balances system. Three types of ground water quality are designated by the Surface Casing Program for various oil and gas operations: fresh or superior quality (TDS<1000 ppm), usable quality (TDS<3000 ppm), and underground sources of drinking water (USDW) (TDS<10,000 ppm). These water quality depths and isolations are determined from multiple data sources such as public supply and private water wells, water quality analyses, and more than 250,000 geophysical logs in the Surface Casing log library.