In an issue that highlights the challenges in obtaining federal approvals for projects designed to facilitate the “energy transition,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards expressed frustration in a recent letter that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seems to be dragging its feet in approving the state’s primacy to oversee carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects.
Citing “increasing interest” by industry in mounting CCS projects in his state, Edwards, a Democrat serving his second term in office, notified EPA Administrator Michael Regan that “we are now seeing concepts begin to turn into investments decisions — but a recurring question is if and when Louisiana will receive primacy.” (RELATED: DAVID BLACKMON: Is BP Getting Cold Feet On Green Energy?)
Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy expressed his own frustrations in an exchange with Department of Energy Deputy Secretary David Turk during a recent hearing. “Louisiana cannot get primacy. We’re told that our application is actually being referred to as a model as to how to get primacy,” Cassidy said, going on to complain that “we still can’t get it. It’s been held up for years now.” Cassidy also noted that other states, including Wyoming and North Dakota, have received their own primacy application approvals even as Louisiana’s has been delayed.
In response, Turks said that “We’re trying to do whatever we can with our EPA colleagues. I’ve had several conversations. We have teams of ours working with EPA colleagues trying to inform their decision-making process…I’m happy to talk about this with our White House colleagues as well and try to make some progress. I understand the urgency of what you’re saying.”
The thing is, when it comes to CCS, no state has so much potential as Louisiana does. Last August, I reported that energy analytics firm Enverus published a study showing that Louisiana is among the richest of all states in underground storage space that is ideal for CCS applications.
In its release, Enverus analysts stated that the company’s records document “10 million tons per annum of operational global sequestration capacity…When evaluating sequestration locations, the report and ranking considered reservoir quality and proximity to point source emissions and transportation as leading indicators. As a result, the Southern Louisiana Oligocene-Miocene, with its clean sand aquifers, stood out among numerous locations and is now deemed among the best storage reservoirs in the world by EIR.”
In his letter to Regan, Gov. Edwards adds that “I believe that more information on the progress of Louisiana’s Class VI application would help encourage potential CCS operators to make firm investment decisions and to plan accordingly for meeting the specifics of Louisiana’s Class VI standards.” Somewhat ironically, Regan claims to be committed to the primacy process, even as his agency holds up the works. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to supporting states’ efforts to obtain Class VI primacy,” Regan stated in a Dec. 9 letter sent to the nation’s governors.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that exercises oversight on these matters, also seems frustrated with EPA’s delays. “We had $12 billion to deploy carbon capture at a commercial scale,” Manchin said last week. “The infrastructure bill provides the EPA $75 million for Class VI well permitting including providing grants to states that take over the responsibility for permitting these wells. However, only two active Class VI wells have ever been permitted and at least 30 applications are pending at the EPA. What’s that going to do to meet the timetables that we have?”
In a Feb. 9 story, Reuters quotes Charles Fridge, CEO of CCS project developer Verde CO2, as saying “Louisiana businesses increasingly need carbon capture strategies to improve their environmental footprints, and a clear, consistent permitting path will give greater confidence to the investment decisions needed to move ahead. The long-term health and success of our industry hinges on close collaboration with regulators and a sound, well-built permitting process at the state and federal levels.”
Gov. Edwards, Sen. Cassidy and other Louisiana officials believe their state is ready to move ahead with just such a process. Unfortunately, that can’t happen until Regan and his staff at EPA decided to take their heavy collective foot off the brakes.
David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.
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