Carbon capture and storage

EPA Grants Louisiana Authority Over Carbon Injection and Sequestration

The US Environmental Protection Agency has signed a final rule granting the state’s request for primary responsibility for the permitting, compliance, and enforcement of carbon sequestration wells under the Underground Injection Control Program.

The Louisiana state flag waving along with the national flag of the United States of America
Source: rarrarorro/Getty Images

On 28 December 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formally granted Louisiana state primacy in the permitting and regulation of wells and projects involving the underground sequestration of carbon dioxide.

Permitting of such wells and operations, known as Class VI permits, is generally directly regulated by the EPA, though the EPA can grant primary regulatory authority to individual states that develop a regulatory framework that matches or exceeds the EPA’s Class VI standards, as is now the case in Louisiana’s Office of Conservation.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said that Louisiana’s geology and existing base of industry and pipeline infrastructure position the state to be a major player as a hub for carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, enabling industry to shrink its carbon footprint in a global market that is ever more carbon sensitive.

“Finding alternative means of harnessing our traditional fuel sources at the same time we expand our options for alternative fuel sources to the point they are market-ready, available, and affordable is probably the great challenge of our generation and some of the most important work we can do for future generations,” Edwards said. “While CO2 sequestration is not the only strategy available for carbon management, it is the most mature and market-ready tool available in the near term.”

CO2 sequestration involves use of injection wells to store CO2 deep below ground, under confining layers such as shales that prevent upward migration of what is injected. Regulations deal with issues such as thickness of the confining layers, potential for horizontal migration, appropriate well construction, monitoring requirements, and financial security requirements, among other issues.

After the state legislature made an adjustment to state law in 2019 to bring it in line with federal requirements, the Office of Conservation’s Injection and Mining Division worked on preparing a package of CO2 sequestration regulations for about 2 years. That work included a painstaking review of all existing and proposed state regulations on CO2 sequestration in comparison with federal requirements.

The Office of Conservation made those state rules official in January 2021, a package of regulations that exceeds the EPA requirements in several areas, including

  • Louisiana will not grant waivers to injection depth requirements. 
  • Louisiana prohibits sequestration of CO2 in salt caverns.
  • Louisiana will not issue area permits for multiple wells at once, requiring each individual well to be reviewed and permitted on its own. 
  • Louisiana requires additional measures for monitoring systems and operating requirements. 

“We certainly want Louisiana to be able to develop opportunities for economic growth in the emerging market for carbon management,” said Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Commissioner of Conservation Monique M. Edwards . “But we cannot and will not sacrifice our duty to ensure that operations are conducted in a way that is protective of public safety and the environment.”
Commissioner Edwards said her office will be reaching out to EPA Region 6 to discuss handover of the more than 20 Class VI applications for Louisiana that have already begun the permitting process with the EPA.

“We have seen unprecedented interest in carbon sequestration projects over the past couple of years, with companies reaching out to our office to express interest in what the regulatory landscape will be,” she said. “The applications already in with the EPA are just the start.”