New CEQ Directive promotes “responsible deployment” of carbon capture, use and sequestration


On the heels of a new initiative by the Biden administration to reduce emissions from the industrial sector through carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS) and other methods, the Council on Quality of Environment (CEQ) has issued new interim guidance to federal agencies for “responsible deployment” of CCUS Technologies. The administration views CCUS as critical to achieving its goal of net zero emissions across the economy by 2050. emissions in all industrial sectors. The guidance also complements state-level efforts to streamline permits and expedite projects, including in Colorado and Wyoming.

The CEQ’s interim guidance builds on the full report it prepared for Congress in June 2021. The guidance provides direction for federal agencies to review, approve, and deploy CCUS projects through the maze of existing laws and regulations. Since multiple federal agencies will have a role in authorizing, approving, or overseeing CCUS projects, effective coordination is necessary for success.

Environmental reviews: The CEQ recommends that federal agencies streamline National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act reviews by developing programmatic reviews and biological advisories. The Obama administration used this strategy to assess the high-level impacts of large-scale solar projects in 2012.

Technological implications: Recognizing that many CCUS technologies are in the early stages of development, CEQ asks agencies to study and quantify the potential direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of CCUS projects. These include air and water quality impacts, such as emissions from retrofitting facilities to capture CO2 and fabrication and installation of CCUS infrastructure. To increase public trust and transparency, agencies should share their results with the public and establish procurement standards.

Transport and storage: National CO2 the pipeline and permanent sequestration networks will be the basis for a successful CCUS deployment. Federal agencies should consider how to streamline pipeline permits and update their regulations to accommodate the deployment of CCUS. The CEQ also asks agencies to assess and consider the impacts of climate change in the design, construction and maintenance of CO2 pipelines. The Department of Transportation should update its geohazard and emergency planning criteria to reflect CCUS. Building public confidence in technology, safe, secure and transparent removal of CO2 is necessary. CEQ recommends that the EPA modify its greenhouse gas reporting program to increase reporting requirements for CCUS facilities. The Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should consider starting a national sequestered CO monitoring program2.

Community and tribal involvement: Although many environmental and community groups recognize that CCUS is necessary, some are skeptical. CEQ seeks to allay concerns by urging agencies to engage early and often with communities and tribes regarding proposed CCUS projects. It also encourages agencies to develop and apply environmental justice best practices for CCUS projects. Agencies should identify overburdened and underserved communities and tailor mitigation and avoidance measures accordingly.

The CEQ’s interim guidance underscores the undeniable importance that widespread CCUS must play in achieving ambitious US climate goals. It also highlights barriers to overcome, including the need for speed but the current lack of scale, complicated federal permit regimes, the need for transparency and auditability, and important community and environmental justice considerations. The CEQ guidance is part of a broad federal effort to accelerate CCUS, including Congressional initiatives to incentivize CCUS through increased funding, and RDD&D through the Omnibus Spending Bill 2021 and the infrastructure investment and employment, and increases to the Section 45Q tax credit.

Comments on the draft guidance are expected by March 18, 2022 and can be submitted at (File No. CEQ-2022-0001). Our attorneys and policy advisors have substantial CCUS expertise at the federal and state levels and would be happy to answer any questions your company may have about a CCUS project or assist you in drafting comments on the interim guidelines.

This document is intended to provide you with general information regarding the CEQ guidelines on carbon capture, use and sequestration. The contents of this document are not intended to provide specific legal advice. If you have any questions about the contents of this document or need legal advice on an issue, please contact the attorneys listed or your usual Brownstein Hyatt attorney Farber Schreck, LLP. This communication may be considered advertising in some jurisdictions. The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publication. Because the law in this area changes rapidly and the information is not automatically updated, continued accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

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