From the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA’s) BACT guidance to recent rules finalized by USEPA, all signs appear a “go” for USEPA to give the nod to carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as a control technology of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the future. In the second “niche” article on the blog, this post takes a look at USEPA’s references in the BACT guidance to carbon sequestration and asks whether this portends CCS being listed in USEPA’s central data base of air pollution technology information known as the RACT/BACT/LAER Clearinghouse in the near future. At this point, the answer is definitely possibly.

Prior to the release of the BACT guidance, industry groups had worried that USEPA would require facilities to use costly CCS technology to trap carbon dioxide and store it underground, but the guidance does not go that far.

The guidance states that: “[w]hile CCS is a promising technology, EPA does not believe that at this time CCS will be a technically feasible [best available control technology, or BACT] option in certain cases.”" It adds that ”[a] permitting authority may conclude that CCS is not applicable to a particular source, and consequently not technically feasible, even if the type of equipment needed to accomplish the compression, capture, and storage of GHGs are determined to be generally available from commercial vendors.” The BACT Guidance also states that “there may be cases at present where the economics of CCS are more favorable (for example, where the captured CO2 could be readily sold for enhanced oil recovery)….

But at another place in the BACT guidance, in one case study regarding refineries, carbon capture is ruled out as a possible emissions control technology. The guidance clarifies that, even if the technology would allow CCS at the facility, officials would be justified in rejecting it as a control strategy if the hypothetical facility were far from the nearest storage site and there were no pipeline to move the emissions there.

In short, USEPA’s guidance clearly does not require CCS as BACT for any facility, but USEPA is subtly indicating that, although CCS technology is not quite ready for prime time, it is likely to be “prime” in the future.

USEPA gives away its hand less subtly with the finalization of two rules recently that pave the way to CCS regulation. One rule creates a new "Class VI" injection well for carbon sequestration that would be regulated under a different set of construction, monitoring and testing requirements under USEPA's Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program authorized by the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The second rule would require permit holders to create a CO2 monitoring, reporting and verification plan and to report the amount of CO2 sequestered using a mass balance approach under the Clean Air Act.