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Louisiana gets EPA permission to approve carbon capture well projects; environmental justice advocates object

Posted on January 8, 2024

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – The Environmental Protection Agency has given Louisiana power to approve carbon capture well projects, and the state says it can handle the responsibility, and the oil and gas industry says it will create more jobs. But some environmentalists say Louisiana cannot be trusted with such oversight.

Industrial corridors are peppered around areas of the state.

The EPA says coal and natural gas-fired power plants, as well as ethanol and natural gas processing plants, are among the activities that emit carbon dioxide. And that is where carbon capture comes in, the process of capturing and storing CO2 in a way that it will not affect the atmosphere.

In most states, the EPA is responsible for permitting.

Patrick Courreges, communications director for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, says Louisiana is equipped to handle the new responsibility.

“One, the EPA, they vetted us for a couple of years, they trust us to handle it, and two, as I said before, we have more people per square mile whose specific interest and experience is Louisiana, you’re not having somebody who is trying to keep in their heads what’s going on in New Mexico and East Texas and in West Texas and oh by the way Louisiana, too,” said Courreges.

FOX 8 asked him about areas of the state where such projects might be allowed or prohibited.

“A densely populated area is probably going to be avoided just for the sheer fact it’s harder to control, you’ve got too many variables where you’ve got a lot of people living,” said Courreges.

Mike Moncla, President of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) applauds the EPA’s decision and believes it will help speed up things.

“We’re excited about the opportunity for our state and anytime we can run things more streamlined the Department of Natural Resources, it’s better than having to wait on the federal government, you know, it’s like trying to move an aircraft carrier in a small river when you’re dealing with the EPA. We’ll be able to get things done here in Louisiana, we’re excited,” said Moncla.

And he believes carbon capture will result in more jobs for Louisiana’s oil and gas industry.

“For every well that is drilled it takes 70 service companies, 70 and all those 70 companies employ people, so anytime there’s a well drilled you think about how much impact that has on a town like Lafayette, Houma, Louisiana, different areas where there’s a lot of oil and gas activity, so it’s going be great for Louisiana, great for our industry,” said Moncla.

However, environmentalists and environmental justice advocates do not trust Louisiana to approve and oversee carbon capture well projects.

Beverly Wright, Ph.D. is executive director at Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. She says they have been fighting against carbon capture and storage technology.

“Our concerns are basically that carbon capture storage, carbon capture sequestration, carbon capture underground storage, whatever you call it, it’s really an experiment,” said Wright.

There are concerns that wells would be built near communities that are already dealing with high cancer rates in Louisiana.

“Our concern is specifically about carbon storage wells that will be exactly in the same communities who have been affected for the last 40, 50 years by the petrochemical industry and their facilities that are fence-lined to many of our communities, but this is not a new fight for us,” said Wright. “We’re really concerned about our drinking water.”

Courreges says drinking water systems will not be compromised.

“The heart of the program, our underground injection control program is protecting underground sources of drinking water,” said Courreges. “That’s the whole goal of the program is to ensure that does not happen.”

Wright remains unconvinced.

“I have absolutely no faith in this organization. We had at least 41,000 responses against DNR receiving this primacy rule,” she said.

Courreges understands why there is skepticism about Louisiana having the authority to approve and oversee carbon capture projects.

“I can understand the skepticism, anybody my age or a little older you’ve seen some stuff in Louisiana, we have a history, we’re aware of that but this isn’t the 1950s, we’ve advanced, we’ve learned lessons, we’ve seen where things went wrong,” said Courreges.

He added that the approval process will be thorough and lengthy.

“You’re talking about one of these permit applications, probably taking a good year and a half or more from the start to finish for us to finish reviewing them, it’s not a fast turnaround,” said Courreges.


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