EPA publishes carbon capture regs

The Obama administration on Thursday detailed final regulations easing the path toward technology needed to allow new coal-fired power plants to operate.

A final Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule, to be published in Friday's Federal Register, is meant to remove potential obstacles in the implementation of carbon capture and sequestration (CSS) technology. Without the technology, coal plants would be unable to meet forthcoming emission standards proposed as part of President Obama’s effort to combat climate change.

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Republicans and business groups have maligned the standards as a “war on coal,” saying the carbon capture technology is costly and unproven.

The administration, meanwhile, has defended the technology, which involves capturing carbon emissions before it spews out of plants and injecting it underground for long-term storage. The process is known as geologic sequestration (GS).

The rule creates a “consistent national framework” to facilitate the technology, including language that exempts the carbon streams pumped underground from the EPA’s hazardous waste regulations under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

“EPA expects that this amendment will substantially reduce the uncertainty associated with identifying these CO2 streams under RCRA subtitle C, and will also facilitate the deployment of (geologic sequestration) by providing additional regulatory certainty,” the 58-page rule states.

The rule also clarifies that the EPA does not expect to deem sequestration a waste management activity, which would subject the practices to other regulations. 

The agency also issued draft guidance explaining the process for transitioning wells used to inject carbon dioxide for oil-and-gas development into wells used for carbon capture and sequestration.



Members of the public and interested parties have 75 days to comment on the guidance.