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Leaning on Unproven Carbon Capture Technologies in Louisiana and Beyond

Climate Justice Public Protections Air Climate Energy Environmental Justice

The federal Inflation Reduction Act and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) most recent power plant rules are big wins for climate and the environment. However, they both have their shortcomings, and one of them is their reliance on carbon capture and storage technologies to reach ambitious climate emissions goals.

As a new Center for Progressive Reform report shows, carbon capture technologies are unproven and pose significant risks, especially to communities in states like Louisiana that are already overburdened by pollution. This runs counter to President Biden’s stated environmental justice goals and potentially puts families and communities in harm’s way.

The fossil fuel industry is working to take advantage of ambitious federal and state decarbonization goals and is pushing to enrich itself through the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. Louisiana is one of its current targets because it’s home to a large concentration of oil and gas facilities.

The industry has backing from Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) and state regulators, who are supporting plans for use of these unproven strategies to capture carbon emissions and store them underground for an indefinite period. The federal EPA is considering clearing the way for CCS in the state, as well.

Earlier this year, the EPA proposed to grant the state of Louisiana authority, also known as “primacy,” to regulate CCS technologies. If Louisiana were to gain this authority, the state’s Department of Natural Resources Office of Conservation (DNR-OC) would oversee the facilities. But DNR-OC lacks the necessary resources to provide proper oversight and ensure widespread compliance with its existing programs, calling into question its ability to provide the requisite level of oversight for these wells.

The DNR-OC also has a poor track record in regulating the same industries that would construct and use CCS technologies. Aside from the agency’s lack of capacity to provide proper oversight, there are still inherent risks with the carbon capture and storage process that need further study before the state invests in the deployment of this infrastructure. 

So concludes our new report, Uncertainties and Gaps in Research on Carbon Capture and Storage in Louisiana, which examines the body of scientific literature on the subject. It finds that CCS is an unproven technology that carries risks to our environment and to low-wealth people and people of color. It’s also unclear whether the industry will profit from CCS without significant subsidies from taxpayers and whether the state can provide sufficient oversight to ensure health and safety.

This is especially troubling given the high concentration of overburdened and historically marginalized communities in states like Louisiana, especially in the industrial corridor known as “Cancer Alley.” The oil, gas, and chemical industries have repeatedly subjected these communities to high levels of toxic air and water pollution, as well as the threat of chemical disasters.

Because these areas are already heavily industrialized, they’ll be the focus of CCS installations and technologies in Louisiana, putting residents in danger of injury or even death should a carbon dioxide pipeline or storage facility catastrophically fail and further perpetuating environmental injustices throughout the region.

Before industry and regulators’ plans to expand CCS go any further, research must be conducted to assess the feasibility, safety, and reliability of carbon capture systems at industrial facilities and plants, carbon dioxide pipelines, and storage options.

You can read the full report here on our website and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for shareable content. The EPA is also accepting comments from the public until July 3 on whether it should grant Louisiana authority to regulate carbon capture and storage technologies. You can learn more and comment via the Federal Register.

Climate Justice Public Protections Air Climate Energy Environmental Justice

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