EPA grants Louisiana primacy in permitting, regulating carbon capture wells

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

The Environmental Protection Agency is handing Louisiana regulators the power to approve carbon capture projects at a time when the state’s influential energy sector wants to make the Gulf Coast a hub for the rapidly expanding industry, reports The Associated Press.

Louisiana will be able to issue permits for wells that store carbon dioxide, a critical component of carbon capture and removal technology. In all but two other states, the Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for permitting. Proponents of the change say it will speed up approvals of new projects critical for reducing climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA says the Louisiana agreement includes safeguards to protect communities that live near those facilities—and that those standards will serve as a model for other states.

“It can be done in a way that builds in environmental justice principles that allow for the community to participate in the process and ensures that these communities are safe,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan says.

The EPA also says it secured commitments from Louisiana to have a robust public participation process and to consider how new wells might harm communities near polluting sites and possibly reduce harm.

The Biden administration has increased tax breaks for developers of carbon capture projects and provided large grants, including for an ambitious plan in Louisiana to remove carbon directly from the air. Developers have responded, flooding the EPA with permit applications for new wells, but only a handful of carbon capture projects are currently operating and few wells have been approved so far.

In Louisiana, developers have proposed roughly 30 carbon capture projects, among the most of any state, according to a tracker maintained by the climate-focused group Clean Air Task Force.

Louisiana officials welcomed the EPA’s decision, saying it will help make the state a major carbon capture player and reduce industrial emissions.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and other political leaders have argued that the state’s robust petrochemical industry along the Mississippi River, geology that’s well suited for carbon storage, and plenty of existing infrastructure make it the perfect place for carbon capture development.

North Dakota and Wyoming are the other states with permitting authority. North Dakota, the first state to be granted authority, issued its fourth well permit in May and an ethanol producer is currently capturing and storing carbon there.

Texas, Arizona and West Virginia also want to run their own permitting programs. Read the full story.