Thursday, January 09, 2014

EPA, CO2 and Carbon Capture and Sequestration


By Norris McDonald
On December 19, 2013, EPA finalized a proposed rule to regulate carbon emissions from new power plants by requiring new coal-fired plants to install a technology known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).  Unfortunately, CCS has not been operated at any commercial scale coal-fired power plant in the world. To support the assertion that CCS has been "adequately demonstrated," EPA relied on three power plants that are under development and are proposing to install CCS systems funded by grants from the Department of Energy. 
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 states that EPA cannot rely on projects funded by DOE to show that a new technology has been adequately demonstrated for purposes of the Clean Air Act. Instead of adhering to this legislative intent, EPA went ahead and published the proposal.  Litigation will follow.

The EPA route to mitigating CO2 is being utilized because Congress refused to do its job and pass, in our opinion, Cap & Trade legislation to deal with this serious problem.  Just as the Cap & Trade Program proposed by the Bush administration via the agency rulemaking route did not work, neither will this procedure.  It is another in a long line of air regulations that produce lots of litigation but very little to no mitigation.
CCS technologies allow carbon dioxide to be captured at stationary sources - like coal-fired power plants and large industrial operations - and injected underground for long-term storage in a process called geologic sequestration.

The new rule effectively bans new coal-fired power plants in the U.S. EPA wants to require new coal-fired plants to install an experimental technology called carbon capture and storage (CCS) even though it has not been demonstrated at any commercial scale power plant in the world.

EPA argues that companies will find ways to make this technology cheaper, but companies say they will simply stop investing in new technologies for coal plants if EPA mandates a technology that is not yet ready for commercial use. 

The new rule clarifies that carbon dioxide streams captured from emission sources, injected underground via UIC Class VI wells approved for the purpose of geologic sequestration under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and meeting certain other conditions (e.g., compliance with applicable transportation regulations), will be excluded from EPA’s hazardous waste regulations. Further, EPA clarifies that carbon dioxide injected underground via UIC Class II wells for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) is not expected to be a waste management activity.

EPA concluded that the careful management of carbon dioxide streams under the specified conditions does not present a substantial risk to human health or the environment. EPA’s determination will help provide a clear pathway for the deployment of CCS technologies in a safe and environmentally protective manner while also ensuring protection of underground sources of drinking water. (EPA, Frank Maisano)

Information on the
final rule

Information on the Geologic Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide

Read the draft guidance on transitioning from Class II to Class VI wells

No comments: