Courtesy of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Senators blast EPA for a backlog in approving carbon storage wells
By Esther Frances
WASHINGTON – Senators criticized the Environmental Protection Agency for its slow going approval process for wells that store carbon dioxide captured from power plants, industrial facilities and other sources.
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Nov. 2 highlighted how EPA regulations are slowing down approvals for carbon storage wells. By capturing and injecting carbon dioxide, the country can reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from using fossil fuels. Senators said the backlog could prevent the Biden Administration from reaching its goal of reducing emissions by about 50% by 2030.
“I’m very disturbed by the chairman’s chart of 169 applications, no approvals. If the goal is protecting the environment, we’ve gotta get on with it,” Sen. Angus S. King, Jr., I-Maine said. “We can’t be delaying and slow-walking the process in order to achieve our climate goals.”
EPA Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water Bruno Pigott said an injection well application permit takes approximately two years to approve.
“Permit applications are technical documents, they contain information about the geology to ensure the area is free of faults and fractures, [information about] the injected CO2 plume to know where that CO2 goes, and specifics about well construction to make sure it’s operating in a way that works,” Pigott said.
States can apply and be approved by the EPA for “primacy,” which gives them authority to permit and oversee construction and enforcement of these wells, known as Class VI. Only two states have gained primacy – North Dakota first in 2018, and Wyoming following in 2020. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. expressed frustration that Louisiana has been waiting for two years.
“Louisiana is seeking to get primacy for Class VI wells. This is a year overdue. Maybe two years overdue, which is just amazing,” Cassidy said. “It was intimated we were about to receive [primacy]. We still haven’t received [primacy]. What’s the hold-up?”
The EPA received $50 million from Congress to help states with the primacy process, according to Pigott. Chairman Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said that despite bipartisan support, government funding for carbon capture and storage efforts has “yet to go out the door.”
“I’m disappointed that the talk from the administration seems to be completely out of step with their inaction,” Manchin said. “However, I’m optimistic that as more states, including West Virginia, Louisiana and Texas, are granted primacy from the EPA to approve Class VI wells themselves, the backlog will decline and we will really scale-up carbon capture and sequestration.”