Energy, Environment, West Virginia Legislature

Senate Energy Committee advances bill to enable state primacy over EPA for permitting underground carbon sequestration wells

MORGANTOWN – The Senate Energy Committee on Thursday approved a carbon dioxide sequestration bill needed to pave the way for the state hydrogen hub and other carbon capture projects.

SB 596 makes code changes needed for the U.S. EPA to grant the state primacy over the EPA for permitting Class VI underground injection (UIC) wells used for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

That permitting authority currently belongs to the EPA, which , as we’ve reported, is notorious for dragging its feet in approving permits.

Deputy Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Scott Mandirola told the senators that the details of the bill were crafted in consultation with the EPA and will consummate the application process to enable the EPA to grant primacy that began in 2021.

The bill affects two sections of state environmental code: the Water Pollution Control Act and the 2021 Underground Carbon Dioxide Sequestration and Storage Act.

Among the most important parts of the bill, Mandirola said, it codifies that the state has appropriate enforcement authority for violations regarding carbon sequestration wells and the Water Pollution Control Act.

The EPA has reviewed all draft documentation, he said, and is requiring these code changes as the last step for submission of the final application package.

Another important element of the bill, he said, is extending the wait time for release of liability for a Class VI UIC well. It’s currently 10 years and the bill extends it to either 50 years or the discretion of the DEP secretary, based on a site-specific determination.

The wait time exists to ensure the well formation’s integrity and that no CO2 is migrating or threatening water supplies. He noted in answer to a couple questions that CO2 does not poison the water bout could affect reservoirs in other ways.

Mandirola said North Dakota, Wyoming and Louisiana are the only three states with Class VI UIC permitting primacy. “ We are next in line. … We would like as a state to be the ones to permit that, and not the EPA.”

Class VI well issues

We reported in March 2023 that the West Virginia Manufacturers Association joined with seven other business and industry groups from five states to urge the EPA to get the ball rolling on its slow permitting process because the EPA’s foot dragging hampered pursuit of billions of dollars in CCS projects, and the nation’s ability to be a leader in expanding climate technology.

The EPA typically takes years to grant these permits. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito also voiced their concerns about EPA’s inaction and the need for state primacy across the nation.

The EPA responded to the letter saying it supports primacy efforts and reviews each application carefully, to ensure that the State’s Class VI application is complete and that its Class VI permitting regulations are as stringent as the federal regulations.