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Carnegie Mellon team makes sequestration recommendations

PITTSBURGHCarbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, which captures carbon dioxide from power plants and safely disposes of it deep underground, will not meet its full potential in the United States without new federal regulations that create a uniform regulatory environment.

This is the conclusion of a set of four policy briefs just released by the CSSReg project led by M. Granger Morgan, head of Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Engineering and Public Policy.

"At the moment, there is a patchwork of different rules across the U.S. and a great deal of legal uncertainty," Morgan said. "We need a clear way for CCS projects to obtain the right to inject carbon dioxide into appropriate geological formations and a strategy for safely addressing long-term stewardship once an injection project ends."

Morgan and his colleagues believe that without a safe and cost-effective way to use CCS, as part of a broader strategy for CO2 emissions control, there is no way the country will be able to achieve the reductions in future CO2 emissions that Congress and the Obama administration are now proposing.

The policy briefs, available from, describe changes to federal law and agency rules needed to overcome regulatory and legal barriers to large-scale deployment of carbon sequestration.

The CCSReg project is supported by a $1.85-million grant from the New York-based Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) with additional support from the National Science Foundation (NSF). In addition to investigators at Carnegie Mellon, the project team involves experts at the University of Minnesota, the Vermont Law School and the Washington, D.C.- based law firm of Van Ness Feldman.

While Morgan and his colleagues argue that a general framework for "performance-based regulation" should be established today, they believe the U.S. must build and gain experience with several commercial-scale facilities before finalizing many of the regulatory details. For this reason, developing an "adaptive two-stage" approach to regulation is a key part of their proposal.

Sean T. McCoy, the CCSReg project manager, said the four policy briefs address the needed framework for comprehensive regulation of CCS; the regulatory framework for pipelines transporting CO2 for geologic sequestration; governing access to and use of pore space for geologic sequestration; and managing liability and long-term stewardship for geological sequestration. Specific recommendations include:

  • Amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to direct Underground Injection Control (UIC) program regulators to create adaptive, performance-based rules for geologic sequestration, and to include mechanisms to resolve conflicts between multiple environmental objectives.
  • Expand the federal UIC program to address conflicting uses of pore space during permitting; creating new federal legislation that would limit the trespass liability of a sequestration project developer operating pursuant to a valid UIC permit.
  • Modify the Federal Land Policy Management Act to specifically authorize the use of federal lands for geologic sequestration.
  • Create a Federal Geologic Sequestration Board (FGSB) that would oversee long-term stewardship of adequately closed sequestration projects.
  • Create a revolving fund, based upon risk-based assessment on geologic sequestration projects during their operating life, which will finance the FGSB and any remediation or compensation necessary during long-term stewardship.
  • Create a stopgap federal indemnity program for the stewardship phase of "first-mover" geologic sequestration projects.
  • Develop an "opt-in" federal regulatory regime providing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority to grant or deny applications for federal siting permits for new CO2 pipelines built for the purposes of geologic sequestration.


Contact: Chriss Swaney
Carnegie Mellon University

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