EPA to Decide the Future of Louisiana’s Carbon Capture Potential

Today, residents, industry experts and environmental groups are speaking up for the future of carbon capture and storage in Louisiana, as the Environmental Protection Agency hosts a series of public comment hearings for the state’s application for primacy over underground injection control (UIC) of Class VI wells.

Louisiana has the geological potential to store massive volumes of captured CO2, but permitting backlogs at EPA could jeopardize investment coming into the state. Primacy would allow Louisiana to issue its own permits and develop a regulatory framework that makes sense for its unique geology, as North Dakota and Wyoming are currently capable of doing.

The Path for Louisiana Towards State Primacy

It’s been two years since Louisiana applied for Class VI primacy. Today’s hearing represents a step closer for Louisiana to receiving primacy and speeding up the permitting process for Class VI Wells in the state.

Class VI wells are used to inject CO2 into deep geologic formations – often referred to as dedicated storage – to permanently store CO2, reducing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere and helping to mitigate climate change. EPA’s UIC program rules ensure that wells are correctly regulated, with the appropriate measures taken throughout the process.

The EPA can grant primary enforcement authority—or primacy—to individual states, which is what Louisiana and several other states are applying for. Granting states primacy is an important step that could boost large-scale and economy-wide adoption of carbon capture technology and projects.

If approved Louisiana would be the third state to have primacy over Class VI wells, and the first state granted primacy under the Biden administration.

Why Louisiana’s Well Permitting Application is key?

Primacy approval would put Louisiana in a position to win the so-called CCS race and establish its leadership in the carbon capture space. Between Louisiana’s high volumes of emissions with low capture break evens, world class reservoir quality and available CO2 transportation infrastructure, the state is highly-qualified to have authority over its Class VI wells.

Additionally, carbon storage represents a significant economic opportunity for the state. Through investing in and deploying in carbon capture technology, Louisiana has the potential to add a total of 7,420 jobs to the local economy.

Key Voices Support Louisiana’s State Primacy

With less than three weeks left in the comment period on the State’s application, there have been several notable public comments already submitted:

Mark Miller of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association commented on how Louisiana being granted primacy will benefit the state:

“We believe that if Primacy is granted to our State, Louisiana can benefit from the creation of more green energy, and well-paying jobs for our workforce. Louisiana Carbon Sequestration can also provide new opportunities in connection with STEM education, and good paying entry level jobs and ultimately, careers.”

Connie P. Fabre, President and CEO of the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance, also concurred in her comment that:

“The state of Louisiana has an unprecedented opportunity to achieve carbon reduction goals. Many companies are interested in building projects to further their objectives and Louisiana has the geology and infrastructure to support sustainable development. Louisiana also has the skilled workforce, education and training facilities, and apprenticeship programs already established to meet the demand for new projects.”

William Gurrola, Vice President of Project Development at Sempra Infrastructure in commented:

“Sempra Infrastructure has enjoyed a long working relationship with LDNR in the permitting, development, construction and operations of our assets in Southwest Louisiana. […] Granting LDNR primacy over Class VI wells will ensure that all carbon capture & sequestration projects in the state are thoroughly reviewed.”

Matthew L. Jewell, Parish President of St. Charles Parish, commented that federal policies often adopt a one-size-fits-all approach that disregards the specific circumstances and requirements of individual states and localities. Louisiana state agencies are more familiar with the specific needs facing the communities, along with an intimate level of knowledge on local issues that make them better equipped to represent those concerns:

“That is essentially true when it comes to decisions that would affect Louisiana’s oil and natural gas industry, which support jobs for nearly 350,000 hardworking Louisianans and contributes substantial 23 percent of the state’s annual GDP. Furthermore, our state has successfully managed one of the nation’s most highly regulated industries to help provide energy to the people of Louisiana and the nation.”

Bipartisan Support on CCS Exists

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee recently held a hearing to discuss opportunities for Congress to reform the permitting process for energy and critical mineral projects. Lawmakers and speakers commented on EPA’s delays in approving Class VI well permits to store carbon.

A comment from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in his closing statement pointed out that the EPA had been sending mixed messages on its position of advancing CCS technology, thereby hindering the technology’s ability to develop:

“The whole thing we’re trying to do is mature an industry. I want people to know that also carbon capture [and] sequestration, if the EPA does not give us permits for Class VI wells, which they have not, that means they’re trying to strangle you with a thousand cuts. They’re trying to go one way without the other. They know it’s a balanced approach.

So don’t tell me that you’re going to invest in carbon capture [and] sequestration, when we can’t get a permit to basically sequester the carbon captured. This is the game being played. I know it. They know I know it. And we’re not gonna let em get away with it. And we will shut everything down until they start playing exactly how the bill was written in the intent.” (emphasis added)

The bipartisan support for carbon capture technology creates ample opportunity for the industry to invest, develop, and deploy at large-scale carbon capture projects to meet global clean energy demands, while reducing emissions and mitigating climate change.

Bottom Line: Louisiana would greatly benefit from achieving primacy over Class VI wells, it would put the state on a path towards reducing its own industrial emissions, reaching the goals of their Climate Action Plan, and generating billions of dollars for the local and state economy. Louisiana is prime real estate for investment in carbon capture projects that will be transformative and influential in catalyzing the next stage of the energy revolution.

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