Texas Democrats split on state’s role in carbon captureHouston ChronicleMedia Coverage

By James Osborne
July 18th, 2023

WASHINGTON — Some Texas Democrats are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to reject the state’s application to permit the construction of carbon storage facilities despite support of the technology from many within their own party.

Reps. Joaquin Castro, of San Antonio, and Lloyd Doggett, of Austin, wrote a letter Friday to EPA  Administrator Michael Regan questioning the state government’s commitment to environmental protection and asking the agency to review the Texas Railroad Commission’s history on permitting oil and gas wells.

“The commission has a history of waiving its own rules and regulations to favor oil and gas companies over health and environmental protection standards,” Castro and Doggett wrote.

The Railroad Commission, which oversees oil and gas drilling in Texas, submitted an application for primacy over carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects in December as the state gears up to take advantage of billions of dollars worth of federal CCS tax credits.

A spokesperson for the agency said Texas was, “in the best position to evaluate” carbon storage projects “given the variety of geologic settings in which storage will be applied.”

“The RRC’s top priority is ensuring the safety and security of Texans and the environment, while also providing a predictable regulatory environment that allows our state to be the nation’s top producer of reliable energy,” she said.

Some of the state’s Democratic delegation indicated their support for the railroad commission. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, a Houston Democrat, said in a statement Monday EPA should give Texas’s application, “a fair and timely review.”

“EPA’s review will consist of a straightforward and fair evaluation, while ensuring environmental standards and community input opportunities are part of the program,” she said.

Carbon capture technology is viewed by scientists as crucial in the fight against climate change and has won support from both sides of the political aisle, including from President Joe Biden.

But some environmental groups have argued against use of the technology, arguing it is unproven and will foster continued use of fossil fuels.

In their letter to EPA, Castro and Doggett questioned whether the railroad commission would take a stringent enough approach to ensure that carbon capture projects keep carbon dioxide from leaking into the atmosphere. They also questioned the impact carbon capture facilities would have on neighboring communities, pointing to an area south of Houston where Occidental Petroleum and other firms are developing a carbon capture hub and residents “already face severe levels of pollution.”

“The commission has failed to demonstrate a serious understanding of and concern for the environmental justice threats underregulated carbon capture technologies could pose to historically marginalized communities,” they wrote.

A spokesman for Occidental declined to comment on the letter.

Related News