In May 2015, the state approved House Bill 40 providing the state with exclusive jurisdiction over gas well drilling and production activities, expressly pre-empting municipalities from regulating such activities, except for a few certain aspects of aboveground activity. The State provided limited regulation to local governments to regulate aboveground activity related to an oil and gas operation or that which occurs at or above the surface of the ground, including fire and emergency response, traffic, lights, noise, notice, reasonable setback requirements, and other aboveground activities, such as inspecting for air and water emissions; however, any irregularities in emissions are reported to the appropriate agency.
In addition, under HB 40, local government regulations must meet all of the following four factors:
- Are limited to regulating aboveground activity related to an oil and gas operation (as noted above)
- Must be commercially reasonable
- Do not effectively prohibit an oil and gas operation conducted by a reasonably prudent operator
- Are not otherwise preempted by state or federal law
The two main state agencies regulating gas well production and drilling are:
- The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) for regulating almost all aspects of oil and gas development in Texas, including processes from well drilling to well plugging. The RRC maintains records of operating companies as well as their mineral leases, wells, and production levels. Regional offices for the RRC conduct periodic inspections of well sites and can issues violations for improper equipment operation.
- The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the governmental agency tasked with monitoring and permitting oil- and gas-drilling operations emissions. The TCEQ developed an interactive map to show the location and results of air sampling and also created a site with updates about the Barnett Shale area and related news items.