Energy Northwest announced today that it no longer plans to build a 680 MW Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plant at the Port of Kalama in Washington because of concerns over implementing carbon capture and storage (CCS) in that state. The decision to walk away came after the Washington legislature passed ESSB 6001, which would require CCS technology to be part of the plant. The company asserted that it decided not to pursue the plant because, in effect, carbon dioxide is a waste in Washington and, therefore, the injection of carbon dioxide for permanent storage in Washington is illegal. This explanation, though, is curious because the regulations implementing ESSB 6001 lay out the requirements for CCS in Washington, appearing to make injection legal as long as the requirements of the regulations are met. Thus, if regulators told Energy Northwest that it could not implement a CCS project in Washington under any circumstances, that would be an aberrational interpretation of Washington's CCS regulations, as demonstrated by the following brief summary of the CCS regulations.

Although Washington's CCS rules do suggest that carbon dioxide is a waste by requiring a waste discharge permit for CCS pursuant to the state’s Water Pollution Control Act, the rules also provide a regulatory framework for CCS projects in Washington, suggesting that CCS is permitted if it complies with the regulations. The CCS rules were promulgated under the state's authority under the Underground Injection Control Program of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, and require an owner or operator to both register and obtain a permit for a CCS project. To register a CCS project, the CCS owner or operator must provide owner and operator information; the site location; a description of the well; and a description of the “best management practices” that will be implemented to protect groundwater quality. Further, the registrant of a CCS project must provide “other information the Department [of Ecology] determines is necessary to meet the nonendangerment standard,” a showing that the operator will prevent the movement of fluid containing any contaminant into the groundwater if the contaminant may cause a violation of state water quality standards for groundwater and otherwise protect water quality. Additionally, CCS wells may only discharge directly into an aquifer under certain circumstances, and if the well is located in a groundwater protection area, must meet additional requirements.

As discussed above, the owner or operator of a CCS project in Washington must obtain a state waste discharge permit for the CCS project, and, because no permit by rule for CCS exists, a CCS owner or operator will be required to obtain an individual permit for each project. To obtain an individual waste discharge permit for a CCS project, an applicant must make the following five showings in an extensive permit application:

  • A demonstration showing to a “high degree of confidence” that ninety-nine percent of the injected CO2 will remain contained in the geologic formation for 1,000 years.
  • A demonstration that “the caprock and other features” of the geologic formation have the appropriate characteristics to prevent the migration of CO2.
  • A demonstration that the CCS project will have a monitoring program to identify leakage of CO2 to the atmosphere, surface water, and groundwater.
  • A demonstration that all facility structures and wells will be engineered and constructed to prevent the migration of CO2 or impacts to surface and groundwater.
  • A demonstration that all known, available and reasonable methods of prevention, control and treatment (AKART) will be used to remove contaminants from the CO2.