>Changes to Statewide Rule 14, Plugging, have been proposed. The proposed rule was published in the Texas Register April 17, 1998. While the major changes are outlined below, you are encouraged to review the entire proposed rule. You may call your district office or the Railroad Commission in Austin (512-463-6882) for a copy. To avoid duplication charges and, if a copy is mailed, postage costs, you may download the proposed rule from the Commissions web site: www.rrc.state.tx.us.
Comments. The usual 30-day comment period for proposed rules has been extended to 60 days for this Statewide Rule 14 rulemaking. Comments on the amendments may be addressed to Colin K. Lineberry, Legal Examiner, Office of General Counsel, at PO Box 12967, Austin TX 78711-2967. They are due by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 17, 1998.
Major Proposed Statewide Rule 14 Revisions
1. Plugging Responsibility. The operator designated on the most recent Commission-approved designation form (generally, a Form P-4, "Producer's Transportation Authority and Certificate of Compliance," or Form W-1, "Application to Drill, Deepen, Plug Back, or Reenter") is responsible for plugging. This provision only applies to designation forms filed after August 31, 1997. Operators that filed designation forms prior to September 1, 1997 are presumed to be responsible for plugging. However, this presumption may be rebutted at a hearing called for the purpose of determining plugging responsibility. This proposed provision is the result of Senate Bill 638, enacted during the 75th Legislature and effective September 1, 1997.
2. Texas Experimental Research and Recovery Activity (TERRA). An operator may apply to have an inactive, mechanically sound and non-polluting wellbore accepted into this program. If the well is accepted into the TERRA program, the operator is no longer responsible for plugging the well.
3. State-Funded Plugging. The Commission may authorize the use of state funds to plug wellbores and later seek reimbursement from the operator under any of the following conditions: the responsible operator cannot be found, the responsible operator does not have the assets to plug the well, a Commission issued final order requiring compliance has not been complied with, or the well poses an immediate threat of pollution to surface or subsurface waters.
4. Approved Cementers. Operators shall use only cementers approved by the assistant director of well plugging or the assistant director's delegate. Cementing companies, service companies, or operators may apply for designation as approved cementers. An approved cementer is authorized to conduct plugging operations in accordance with commission rules in each commission district. A cementing company, service company, or operator seeking designation as an approved cementer must file a written request with the district director of the district in which it proposes to conduct its initial plugging operations.
5. General Plugging Requirements.
A. The operator and the cementer are both responsible for complying with the general plugging requirements of this rule and for plugging wells in conformity with the procedure set forth in the approved Form W-3A ("Notice of Intention to Plug and Abandon") for the well. The operator and cementer may each be assessed administrative penalties for failure to comply with the general plugging requirements of this rule or for failure to plug the well in conformity with the approved W-3A.
B. Designation as an approved cementer may be suspended or revoked for violations of commission rules.
C. Tagging, pressure testing, and/or respotting of any plugs may be required if necessary to insure that the well does not pose a potential threat of harm to natural resources.
D. The use of mud-laden fluid of at least 9 1/2 pounds per gallon with a minimum funnel viscosity of 40 seconds is required.
E. The operator is required to fill the rathole, mouse hole, and cellar, and empty all tanks, vessels, related piping and flowlines, that will not be actively used in the continuing operation of the lease, within 120 days after plugging work is completed. Within the same 120 day period, the operator is also required to remove all such tanks, vessels, and related piping, remove all loose junk and trash from the location, and contour the location to discourage pooling of surface water. The operator must close all pits in accordance with the provisions of Statewide Rule 8.
Once again, copies of the proposed rule are available and if you are interested in commenting on the revisions, please remember comments must be received by June 17, 1998.