EPA's Region 6 Office
Serving: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 66 Tribal Nations
** Proposed and Final oil and gas general permits can be found on the General Permits page. **
A large percentage of national oil and gas exploration and production is regulated by Region 6's NPDES Permits Branch. The majority of regulated discharges from the industry are located in coastal areas in Louisiana and Texas and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Discharges from oil and gas facilities are generally authorized under general permits.
General permits are a simple mechanism for authorizing discharges from the large number of facilities engaged in the same activity. Once EPA issues the permit, operators submit a simple application to be covered. The general permit mechanism is especially important for oil and gas permitting because there are over 12,000 leases in Federal waters in the western Gulf of Mexico which are covered by permits. The resources utilized to issue one general permit are significantly less than would be needed for 12,000 individual permits.
The Western Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf general permit covers facilities located farther than three miles offshore of Louisiana and Texas. Although that permit authorizes discharges such as domestic waste water associated with offshore platforms, the main discharges authorized are drilling fluids, drill cuttings, and produced water. Those discharges have a high potential to impact marine life; therefore, the general permit contains a number of requirements to control the toxicity of the discharges. The permit is also flexible enough to account for new technologies being developed for altra-deep water exploration. Those include new pumping systems designed to lift drilling fluids from the sea floor over 8,000 feet to the surface for treatment.
Because of decreased transportation costs and the availability of additional disposal options, fewer waste streams are authorized to be discharged from oil and gas facilities located closer to shore. EPA's oil and gas general permit for the Texas Territorial Seas covers facilities located within 3 miles from the shore. The permit allows many of the same discharges as the Outer Continental Shelf general permit except that the discharge of drilling fluids and drill cuttings is prohibited. The Coastal general permit covers facilities located in the bay and estuaries along the Texas Coast. Drilling fluids, drill cuttings, and produced water are all prohibited from being discharged under the Texas Coastal Oil and Gas general permit. Facilities which are located onshore in Region 6 generally are not authorized to discharge. Wastes from onshore facilities can more easily be transported to a disposal facility or disposed of on site through deep well injection than can offshore oil and gas waste.
For additional information, please contact:
Regional Oil & Gas Coordinator
U.S. EPA, Region 6
1445 Ross Avenue
Dallas, Texas 75202-2733