Energy, Environment, Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

Senate and House bills set the stage for carbon sequestration program in West Virginia

MORGANTOWN – The Senate Energy Committee approved a bill Thursday that supporters hope could put West Virginia on the cutting edge of environmentally friendly carbon sequestration technology.

SB 622 sets up the legal and regulatory framework for underground carbon sequestration.

Ben Beakes, speaking for TC Energy, said, “I think this is going to be a model bill for the rest of the country.”

Houston is trying to become the carbon hub of the world, he said. North Dakota has passed a similar bill while Kentucky, Indiana and Louisiana are all looking.

“West Virginia has the best geology to do carbon capture,” he said, and could become a major player in the solution.

Surface owners will own the liquefied carbon dioxide injected into the ground, he said, and will be sitting on top of a resource that could be key to future manufacturing technology.

Committee counsel told the members they were looking at a revised version of the bill derived from the House version – HB 4491 – approved by House Energy Tuesday.

It sets up a Department of Environmental Protection permitting process. It excludes underground injection done for enchanced oil recovery.

The bill sets up an application process and requirements. Companies wishing to inject the carbon must obtain consent of 75% of landowners involved and make a good faith effort to find the rest.

Applications must go out for a 30-day public comment period and DEP has one year to approve the permit. Operators will pay a tonnage fee on the liquids stored that will go into a special fund to operate the program.

DEP Deputy Secretary Scott Mandirola told the members there are no active injections permits right now. An experimental permit was issued eight years ago but that project proved unsuccessful because it wasn’t cost effective, However, the economics have changed drastically. “There is a tremendous amount of interest.”

Sen, Randy Smith, R-Tucker, committee chair and lead sponsor on the Senate side, said, “We’re trying to get ahead of the game and make it possible.”

Mandirola said the Legislature is in the process of passing DEP rules for sequestration that it has developed, but the industry also wants the framework crafted in this bill in order to feel comfortable moving forward.

It passed unanimously and goes to the Senate floor.

The committee spent just a few minutes on another bill, SB 650, regarding gas well unit cotenancy (multiple owners of a single mineral property). The bill eliminates the requirement that seven or more owners must agree on development in order to enter into a contract to develop the minerals.

The why wasn’t explained, but Smith said all stakeholders met and agreed to remove this requirement.

It passed in a voice vote and goes to the Senate floor.

House action

House Political Subdivisions approved HB 4645. It allows any special excess levy money collected above the levy bond amount to go to the county commission general fund.

It was explained that because of increases in property values, a $50 million school or parks levy might bring in $52 million or more over the course of several years. The bill would let the county keep that extra money.

This can happen, committee counsel said, because voters vote on a bond amount and the tax rate is calculated from that, so more money can be collected than what was expected. It’s also happened that in times of weak real estate markets, levies have collected less than expected.

The bill passed in a voice vote and goes to House Finance.

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