HBA-LJP H.B. 3188 77(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 3188 By: Puente Natural Resources 3/22/2001 Introduced BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Abandoned or deteriorated water wells pose a threat to groundwater resources because contaminants that move through the well can enter an aquifer with no natural filtration by soils or geologic materials and may also allow water from deep aquifers that have a high salt content to contaminate shallow, fresh water aquifers. According to the 2000 interim report to the 77th Legislature by the House Committee on Natural Resources, an estimated 150,000 water wells drilled since 1965 are abandoned or deteriorated. Under current law, landowners or other persons who possess an abandoned or deteriorated well are required to plug or cap the well, but current law does not provide for the plugging of the wells when the landowner cannot be located or does not have sufficient funds. House Bill 3188 creates a water well plugging account and authorizes the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to assess a fee for each new well and deposit that fee in the account. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that rulemaking authority is expressly delegated to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation in SECTION 1 (Section 32.0175, Water Code) of this bill. ANALYSIS House Bill 3188 amends the Water Code to authorize the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (department) to assess a fee for each water well drilled in an amount determined by department rule and provides that the fee only applies to water wells for which the initial drilling operations begin on or after the date the department adopts these rules. The bill requires the department to deposit the fee to the credit of the water well plugging account (account), an account in the general revenue fund that may be appropriated to the department only for the purpose of plugging abandoned or deteriorated wells. The bill prohibits the department from allocating more than 20 percent of the money in the account for administrative expenses of the department. The bill authorizes the department to use the money in the account to plug an abandoned or deteriorated well only if the department determines that the landowner or other person possessing the well cannot be located or does not have sufficient funds to plug the well as determined by criteria established by department rule. The bill provides that the account is exempt from provisions relating to the use of dedicated revenue. EFFECTIVE DATE On passage, or if the Act does not receive the necessary vote, the Act takes effect September 1, 2001.