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Biden Administration Empowers Louisiana to Authorize Carbon Capture Wells
Biden Administration Empowers Louisiana to Authorize Carbon Capture Wells

Biden Administration Empowers Louisiana to Authorize Carbon Capture Wells

  • 29-Dec-2023 2:57 PM
  • Journalist: Shiba Teramoto

The Biden administration is conferring additional authority upon Louisiana regulators, enabling them to attract and approve carbon capture projects, a move aligning with the state's ambition to become a hub for the rapidly expanding carbon capture and removal industry within the influential Gulf Coast energy sector.

Under this new authority, Louisiana will have the ability to issue permits for wells dedicated to storing carbon dioxide, a crucial element of carbon capture technology. Notably, all states, excluding Louisiana and two others, typically rely on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for permitting in this domain. Advocates argue that this delegation of power to Louisiana will expedite the approval process for vital projects aimed at mitigating climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

However, environmental groups have expressed reservations about this development. Skepticism arises from doubts about Louisiana's capacity to ensure proper industry oversight and resident protection, given the state's concentration of oil, gas, and petrochemical plants, often referred to as "cancer alley." Despite opposition, the EPA asserts that the agreement with Louisiana includes safeguards designed to protect vulnerable communities, particularly those that are predominantly Black and economically disadvantaged, residing near such facilities. The EPA believes these standards will serve as a model for other states.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan emphasized the potential for implementing environmental justice principles, allowing communities to participate in the process and ensuring their safety. The Biden administration has prioritized enhancing environmental justice, focusing enforcement efforts on communities burdened by excessive pollution.

Carbon capture technology targets emissions reduction from industrial sources like ethanol plants and coal-fired power plants. The captured carbon can then be transported for injection into underground wells. With this new authority, Louisiana will play a pivotal role in approving such wells. The Biden administration has demonstrated its commitment to advancing carbon capture projects through increased tax breaks and substantial grants, fostering a surge in permit applications. However, only a few carbon capture projects are currently operational, and approvals for wells remain limited.

Opponents argue that sustaining polluting industries poses harm to nearby communities, often comprised of poorer, minority residents. The EPA invited public comments on the state's request, receiving objections from groups such as Earthjustice, citing concerns about Louisiana's weak monitoring and enforcement track record and its perceived inadequacy in protecting drinking water.

The Biden administration has directed significant attention toward Louisiana and its environmental challenges. EPA Administrator Michael Regan has personally visited the state, pledging to address community concerns. Last year, the EPA initiated an investigation into air emissions regulation in Louisiana following complaints from activist groups. While the agency initially acknowledged evidence of racial discrimination, it ultimately dropped the investigation before releasing a final report.

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