Oil states want in on the carbon storage game – POLITICO

Using expensive technology to capture and store carbon pollution before it enters the atmosphere has the full backing of the White House. What it doesn’t have are federal permits.

The Biden administration has approved only two permits for projects that would store carbon dioxide emissions from major industrial sources deep underground — even as applications from companies this year ballooned from 14 to 119, driven in part by tax incentives in President Joe Biden’s $370 billion climate package, writes Jean Chemnick.

The slow permitting pace is in part due to limited capacity within the Environmental Protection Agency, analysts say. To help clear the backlog, project developers and carbon storage advocates argue that EPA should cede some of its permitting authority to states.

EPA has so far granted this authority to North Dakota and Wyoming. The agency is also considering a request from Louisiana.

But others argue that’s a bad idea. The states asking for more control are largely ones whose economies have relied on fossil fuel production. Experts, including some who support carbon capture, worry states might have incentives to cut corners, which could lead to accidents.

Dominic DiGiulio, a former EPA environmental engineer, told Jean that most of the state agencies that would handle the permits promote fossil fuel development — not environmental protection — in their mission statements.

“I have concerns that the states would just be doing box-checking,” said DiGiulio, who is now a consultant.

A number of states have enacted laws that they say would guarantee environmental protections matching any EPA puts in place as the carbon storage industry matures.

“Without any impact to rigor or environmental standards, you’re taking more decisions back to the local level,” said Jeremy Harrell, with the conservative clean energy nonprofit ClearPath, which supports giving states permitting authority.

Carbon capture and sequestration isn’t a new idea, but its technology has evolved. And the industry has had some high-profile failures — to the tune of billions of dollars in technology to capture emissions at coal-fired power plants that didn’t quite work as planned.

Today, the safe transportation and storage of carbon dioxide is shaping the public debate.

“There aren’t many sequestration projects that exist yet,” Derek Sylvan, with the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University, told Jean. “So, it’s especially important for the next wave of projects to get extra scrutiny until all the necessary safety precautions are well understood.”

Thank goodness it’s Friday — thank you for tuning in to POLITICO’s Power Switch. I’m your host, Arianna Skibell. Power Switch is brought to you by the journalists behind E&E News and POLITICO Energy.

Send your tips, comments, questions to [email protected]. And folks, let’s keep it classy.

Today in POLITICO Energy’s podcast: Ben Lefebvre breaks down the Biden administration’s decision to cancel Trump-era oil leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and why it’s fueling criticism from both sides of the aisle.

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“There’s a big risk that they don’t rise above the divisions that we saw in Goa and Chennai,” said Alden Meyer, a senior associate at E3G.

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That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

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