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Spills: Which State Agency Has Jurisdiction?

Depending on what is spilled and where, it might not be the TCEQ.

    The TCEQ is the state’s lead agency in responding to spills of all hazardous substances (except oil spills in coastal waters), including refined petroleum products from pipelines; releases of crude oil being transported over the roadway; and discharges of any other substances that may cause pollution or that may harm air quality pursuant to the Texas Hazardous Substances Spill Prevention and Control Act (Texas Water Code §26.261 et seq) and the Texas Clean Air Act (Texas Health & Safety Code §382.001).

    The General Land Office (GLO) Exit the TCEQ is the state’s lead agency for responding to oil spills that enter, or threaten to enter, coastal waters pursuant to the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act of 1991 (Texas Natural Resources Code §40.001).

    The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) Exit the TCEQ serves as the lead agency for spills or discharges from all activities associated with the exploration, development, or production, including storage or pipeline transportation (excluding highway transport and refined product spills), of oil, gas, and geothermal resources pursuant to Texas Natural Resources Code §85.042, 91.101, and 91.601.

    The Texas Department of State Health Services Exit the TCEQ is charged with the responsibility for threats to human health by biological agents. The DSHS also maintains a regulatory program for sources of radiation consistent with the protection of public health and safety and the environment pursuant to the Texas Radiation Control Act (Texas Health & Safety Code §401.0005).

    The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Exit the TCEQ is the state agency with the primary responsibility for protecting the state’s fish and wildlife resources to include investigating fish kills and any type of pollution that may cause loss of fish and wildlife in accordance with the Texas Water Code §26.001 et seq and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code §12.0011.

    The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Exit the TCEQ is the state agency with primary responsibilities to secure transportation related, spill incident sites; communicate site-specific information to responders and involved agencies; coordinate with local jurisdictions to ensure proper state incident notification; and to assist in the dissemination of information on actions to be taken for the protection of public health and property.


    If a spill presents a disaster or threatens to become one, the governor may make available and bring to bear all resources of the state to prevent or lessen its impact. The governor declares a disaster by executive order or proclamation. Such an executive order activates the recovery and rehabilitation phase of the state’s Emergency Management Plan, which is coordinated by the (TDEM). Exit the TCEQ The TCEQ participates under that division’s coordination during disasters and emergencies.