Manchin and Others Highlight Biden Administration’s Mixed Messages on Carbon Capture

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. While primary topics of the hearing included fast tracking reviews of pipelines, oil and natural gas wells, and mineral mines, key comments were made on the Environmental Protection Agency’s delays in approving Class VI well permits to store carbon.  

Specifically, in Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) closing statement, he argued that the EPA was sending mixed signals on advancing carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), and stifling the nascent 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) 

Rich Nolan, President & CEO of the National Mining Association agreed with these remarks: 

“I want to echo your comments about CCS. If that doesn’t work, it’s a dead end for us.” 

Jason Grumet, the founder and president of the Bipartisan Policy Center also concurred with Manchin: 

“I want to start by saying I agree with you on CCS.” 

Vice President of Jonah Energy Paul Ulrich also weighed in on permitting issues related to C02 pipelines:  

“Clean natural gas projects, wind projects, CO2 sequestration pipelines & even wild conservation efforts are severely limited by unacceptably long review timeframes, endless litigation and ever-changing regulations.” 

These comments come at a time when there is unprecedented eagerness from industry to pursue CCS opportunities, but permits are piling up with EPA. In fact, there are currently more than 70 applications for individual carbon injection wells sitting with the agency. Moreover, the EPA has also been slow to approve states’ applications for primacy over Class VI wells, which would allow them to permit the wells themselves. In many cases, the states can do a more comprehensive and quicker review than the federal government.  

Bottom Line: CCS has the ability to reduce emissions while ensuring that safe, affordable, and reliable energy is being produced for American families – a fact supported by the Biden administration and organizations like the International Energy Agency. The support, initiative and funding are there, but EPA’s permit approvals haven’t kept the same pace.  

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