The Environmental Protection Agency says injecting carbon dioxide underground doesn’t pose substantial environmental or health risks. The agency is proposing a rule to classify carbon dioxide as a non-hazardous waste and encourage a controversial coal technology.
Carbon capture and sequestration—or CCS—is a process where carbon dioxide is removed from the emissions of coal-fired power plants and injected deep underground. It’s not widely used because it’s not yet economical.
In an effort to encourage the industry, the EPA now says carbon dioxide is excluded from hazardous waste regulations, under certain conditions.
Government and industry officials see the technology as a way to prolong the use of coal in a world that’s increasingly worried about the effects of climate change. Bruce Nilles of the Sierra Club says his organization supports new energy technology, but doesn’t believe carbon capture is a long-term solution.
“In many regards, the efforts to try to work out the viability of carbon capture and storage distracts us from the real opportunity at hand, which is to invest in clean energy that’s available today that creates many more jobs than are in the coal industry,” he said.
Though there are no actual carbon capture plants in Kentucky, the state has several research projects underway.
The first CCS project to both capture and sequester its own carbon was at an American Electric Power plant in West Virginia. That effort was halted last month, and a spokeswoman said the decision was financial and the EPA’s proposed rule wouldn’t have provided enough impetus to keep the project alive.