BY: ZACH BRIGHT
05/01/2023 06:52 AM EDT
ENERGYWIRE | EPA has advanced Louisiana’s bid to oversee carbon dioxide injection wells, proposing a rule that would grant the state’s request for so-called primacy.
If finalized, the rule would make Louisiana the third state — after North Dakota and Wyoming — to gain primary enforcement authority over its Class VI wells. The wells are used to inject captured carbon dioxide underground for long-term storage.
EPA Region 6, which covers the southern-central region of the U.S., announced Friday that the proposed rule would be open for public comment for 60 days, after which the agency will make a decision. The move follows expectations that the Biden administration will propose pollution limits on power plants that will likely require carbon capture technology to meet.
EPA Region 6 Administrator Earthea Nance said in a statement that “this proposal would help leverage critical technologies to cut harmful climate pollution that jeopardizes people’s health and safety.”
Louisiana and EPA Region 6 “are very much on the same page” when it comes to deploying carbon capture technologies, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said in a statement. Staff at the Louisiana Office of Conservation, he added, have worked for several years with Region 6 staff in “crafting regulations that meet the EPA’s high standards.”
EPA determined that Louisiana’s Class VI Underground Injection Control program meets all requirements for approval and complies with the Safe Drinking Water Act, which safeguards underground sources of drinking water from contamination. Louisiana already has primacy over the five other classes of injection well regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Louisiana first applied to the EPA for primary enforcement authority in April 2021.
Louisiana officials are “a lot more familiar with our state specific geology, with our regulatory experience,” said Patrick Courreges, spokesperson for Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. “We’ve seen what’s been done right wrong in the past and how it should be done in the future.”
Several states are pursuing Class VI primacy amid the growing appetite for carbon capture and storage projects. Industry groups say EPA takes too long to issue Class VI permits and warn that the backlog could get worse as tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act encourage long-term carbon dioxide storage.
Texas, Arizona and West Virginia have taken initial steps in pursuit of primacy for wells in their states. Commission Shift, a Texas-based group that supports reforming its state’s oil and gas regulator, said that what happens in Louisiana could cascade to other states.
“The EPA should not grant any additional UIC primacy to states that have a demonstrated history of mismanaging the current UIC programs under their purview,” Commission Shift said in a release, citing environmental concerns with injections.
Sen Bill Cassidy (R-La.) has criticized EPA for not approving his state’s request for primacy over Class VI wells and, as recently as Thursday, vowed to block all of President Joe Biden’s pending EPA nominees.
As of Sunday, it was unclear whether EPA’s proposed rule would prompt Cassidy to drop his holds. But on Friday, he released a statement heralding the proposed rule.
“Capturing and storing carbon is the next phase of job creation and economic development in Louisiana,” Cassidy said in the statement. “Louisiana being able to permit wells independently of the EPA while implementing EPA standards gives us an edge over other states and protects the environment.”
Carbon capture technology and storage will unlock the opportunities to “safely reduce emissions, increase energy production, create jobs and generate more tax revenue for Louisiana,” said Marc Ehrhardt, executive director of the Grow Louisiana Coalition, a group that supports the state’s oil and gas industry.
In addition to taking online public comment, EPA will hold a June 15 hearing on the proposed rule in Baton Rouge, La.
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