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HB 1248, if passed, would modify the Water Code (Section 36.001) by adding a new subdivision (31) and a new definition, that of an “operating permit." This is defined as any permit “issued by the district for the operation of or production from a well, including a permit to drill or complete a well if the district does not require a separate permit for the drilling or completion of a well”.
The bill also notes that any introduced changes must be in accordance with Section 36.1146 of the Water Code, and do not apply to the renewal of operating permits issued under Section 36.1145 of the Water Code.
Section 36.1145 would be introduced by the bill and refers to the process of operating permit renewal. If passed, a district shall, without hearing, renew or approve an application or an operating permit if a number of criteria are met. These include, submission of an application in a timely manner and submission of a renewal without any changes being made to the original permit. Districts are not required to automatically renew permits if these criteria are not met, nor if there are outstanding fees or enforcement actions in place.
Section 36.1146 would also be introduced by the bill, and refers to changes made to operating permits. This section states that if changes are requested during the renewal process, the original and unchanged permit remains in effect until either the conclusion of the permitting process, or the adjudication of any outstanding disputes, whichever is the latter. This process applies independent of which party requested the change to the permit.
The final change which would be made is minor and notes that the permitting process applies to permit amendment processes for which a hearing is required.
HB 1248 is a helpful bill in that it allows for more
flexibility on the part of groundwater conservation districts, and almost
certainly, an expedited permitting process. The bill essentially states that, provided
an operator is in good standing and provided no party wishes to modify an
existing permit, the district in question must renew the permit in an expedited
manner, without a hearing. HB 1248 does a good job balancing efficiency and
accountability, making the state bureaucracy more responsive to real needs. As
such we support HB 1248.
Note: We also supported companion bill SB 854.