‘Missing critical points’: proposed amendments to carbon dioxide rules fall short of protecting Texas water supply and vulnerable communitiesPress Release

AUSTIN, TX – Texas community groups have spotted weaknesses and gaps in the state oil and gas agency’s proposed rule amendments intended to bring carbon dioxide storage oversight up to federal standards. 

The Railroad Commission (RRC)’s proposed rules would allow facilities to operate even if they fail a mechanical integrity test, and they don’t require cement plugging from the bottomhole of an injection well to the surface — which is best practice to prevent subsurface carbonic acid from impacting freshwater.

Additionally, the RRC has not incorporated environmental justice and language accommodation considerations throughout all phases of carbon dioxide projects. The EPA calls for consideration of communities already overburdened and disproportionately impacted by pollution, including plans for assessing cumulative impact, exposure pathways, and required mitigation. The RRC’s proposed amendments for permitting carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS) projects, however, lack clear definitions of at-risk communities and thorough requirements for outreach and notice. 

Over 32 advocacy groups and individuals across the state signed on to a letter opposing the agency’s pursuit of CCUS primacy and providing detailed notes on the proposed amendments to carbon dioxide rules. See full comments here.

The RRC is updating its Chapter 5 carbon dioxide rules in a bid to the EPA as they apply to the federal agency for sole permitting authority over class VI carbon dioxide injection wells in the state. Commission Shift has concerns about the RRC taking over class VI primacy based on the agency’s track record with overseeing existing injection wells which has led to leaks, blowouts, earthquakes. Reps. Joaquin Castro and Lloyd Doggett also took this position in their recent letter to the EPA, urging the federal agency to deny CCUS primacy to the RRC and instead investigate the RRC’s handling of current class II oil and gas wells.

“Captured carbon dioxide is a waste material. Like any other industrial pollution, there are serious health risks if it isn’t disposed of safely. Pressurized carbon dioxide mixed with groundwater forms potent carbonic acid that can eat through metal or poison underground aquifers. If it leaks in the air, it can cause suffocation. We need regulations that take this risk seriously,” said Paige Powell, Policy Manager at Commission Shift. 

“As a petroleum geologist for the past 40 years, I am concerned that carbon capture and underground storage has yet to be proven safe and reliable. The approach to inject carbon waste underground appears to be more of a convenience than a scientific approach supported by sound geoscience evidence,“ said Patrick Nye, Executive Director of Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association and oil and gas operator. “I am profoundly against the RRC managing Class VI wells based upon the agency’s lack of personnel to fully evaluate each permit and the outsized responsibility of the director in making permit decisions. I urge that the EPA maintain their leadership in evaluating Class VI well permits.”

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