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As Carbon Capture Proposals Boom, Communities Have Safety Concerns

The government is greenlighting carbon capture projects that will prolong the life of fossil fuels and endanger surrounding communities — and it’s proposing to give oversight of those projects to some of the most fossil fuel-friendly states.

Earthjustice is asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to maintain oversight over emerging carbon capture injection technology as part of our work to advance environmental justice and transition away from fossil fuels.

The Inflation Reduction Act included investments in carbon capture technology, which comes with risks to people and the environment.

  • Carbon capture technologies are intended to capture carbon emissions from fossil-fueled power plants and industrial facilities. The carbon is then injected underground in carbon waste injection wells, repurposed to extract more polluting fossil fuels, or reused in products.
  • The fossil fuel industry champions carbon capture as a way to keep burning coal and gas with a supposedly smaller climate impact.
  • But burying carbon underground doesn’t make its environmental impact go away. The risks from injecting it include earthquakes, drinking water contamination, and releases of concentrated CO2 that can send people to the hospital.

The federal government is responsible for regulating carbon injection wells, but it’s proposing to hand over that authority to fossil fuel-friendly Louisiana.

  • The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) does a poor job of regulating and enforcing its existing oil and gas injection well programs. The state has allowed the industry to abandon more than 4500 known oil and gas wells.
  • There are currently more than 20 proposed carbon injection well sites in Louisiana. Those numbers are expected to grow if the EPA grants Louisiana the authority to issue carbon waste injection well permits.

Carbon waste disposal in Louisiana will only exacerbate the state’s existing pollution problem in majority-Black communities.

  • Louisiana’s first proposed project would inject carbon waste from a fossil fueled hydrogen plant into the ground beneath Lake Maurepas.
  • The complex would be built in Burnside, Louisiana, on the former Orange Grove Plantation — once a sugar plantation that enslaved over 750 people. The graves of the enslaved people on that plantation have not been fully accounted for.
  • Burnside is in an area of Louisiana known as Cancer Alley, where Black communities breathe some of the worst air quality in the country due to its high concentration of fossil fuel plants.

The EPA should maintain oversight of carbon injection wells and address its potential impacts on surrounding communities.

  • We’re asking the EPA to prioritize a review of carbon injection’s environmental justice impacts in all permitting and siting decisions. The state of Louisiana has demonstrated its unwillingness to conduct such a review.
  • The EPA should maintain oversight of Louisiana’s carbon injection program because the state cannot demonstrate that it can manage it in a safe way that does not harm communities and the environment.

Tell the EPA to protect communities from the risks of carbon waste injection.

Employees work on a section of the Mississippi Power Co. carbon capture plant in DeKalb, Miss. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP)
Employees work on a section of the Mississippi Power Co. carbon capture plant in DeKalb, Miss. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP)