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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a rule to advance the use of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies, while protecting American health and the environment. CCS technologies allow carbon dioxide (CO2) to be captured at stationary sources – like coal-fired power plants and large industrial operations – and injected underground for long-term storage in a process called geologic sequestration. The proposal is consistent with recommendations made by President Obama’s interagency task force on CO2 sequestration and helps create a consistent national framework to ensure the safe and effective deployment of technologies that will help position the United States as a leader in the global clean energy race. Today’s proposal will exclude from EPA’s hazardous waste regulations CO2 streams that are injected for geologic sequestration in wells designated for this purpose under the Safe Drinking Water Act. EPA is proposing this exclusion as part of the agency’s effort to reduce barriers to the use of CCS technologies.
Carbon capture and storage, alternatively referred to as carbon capture and sequestration, is a means of mitigating the contribution of fossil fuel emissions to global warming. The process is based on capturing carbon dioxide from large point sources, such as fossil fuel power plants, and storing it in such a way that it does not enter the atmosphere. It can also be used to describe the scrubbing of CO2 from ambient air as a geoengineering technique. Although CO2 has been injected into geological formations for various purposes, the long term storage of CO2 is a relatively new concept. The first commercial example was Weyburn in 2000.
Various forms have been conceived for permanent storage of CO2. These forms include gaseous storage in various deep geological formations (including saline formations and exhausted gas fields), liquid storage in the ocean, and solid storage by reaction of CO2 with metal oxides to produce stable carbonates.
Based on review of existing regulatory programs, EPA’s proposal concludes that the management of CO2 streams under the proposed conditions does not present a substantial risk to people’s health or the environment, provides regulatory certainty to industries considering the use of CCS technologies, and encourages the deployment of CCS technologies in a safe and environmentally protective manner.
The proposed rule is complementary to previous EPA rulemakings, including final rules under the Clean Air Act that require reporting by facilities that capture or inject CO2 streams, and Safe Drinking Water Act regulations that ensure the wells used for geologic sequestration of CO2 are appropriately sited, constructed, tested, monitored, and closed.
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