July 15, 2024

Lawmakers pass carbon capture guidelines

Dave Rylander

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — With multiple corporations targeting Illinois for underground carbon storage and the pipelines that go along with it, the General Assembly passed the Safety and Aid for the Environment in Carbon Capture and Sequestration Act on May 26.

The legislation, if signed by the governor, includes a statewide moratorium on construction of carbon dioxide pipelines for two years or until the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has adopted revised federal safety standards, whichever comes first.

Due to an increase in federal tax incentives, carbon capture and sequestration products have been proposed across Illinois.

Companies have proposed injecting carbon dioxide underground through 22 wells in six Illinois counties and related pipelines have been proposed in 23 counties.

“The bipartisan legislation helps moves CCS technology projects forwards safely and responsibly in Illinois,” according to an Illinois Corn Growers Association release.

ICGA noted the key protection and safety provisions in the bill:

Protection for landowners:

• Affirms pore space ownership belongs to the landowner without severability.

• Requires companies to secure at least 75% of the pore space area around sequestration sites before they can petition to initiate unitization and the amalgamation process for remaining pore space. The number increased to 75% from 71% in the original proposal.

• Illinois Department of Natural Resources governs pore space amalgamation process, not eminent domain.

• Provides extensive protections to nonconsenting landowners including payment for pore space to be at least an average amount of what consenting landowners were paid per acre for use of their pore space during injection for the life of the well.

• Requires 30 years of additional post-injection air and soil monitoring at sequestration sites — which goes further than existing federal requirements.

Moratorium on CO2 pipelines:

• Institutes CO2 pipeline moratorium until the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration — the federal agency responsible for regulating the transportation of carbon dioxide in the United States — finalizes updated safety rules for CO2 pipelines or July 2026, whichever is sooner.

Safety:

• Creates an emergency planning and training fund that can be accessed by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency-Office of Homeland Security to provide training exercises, equipment and support for local emergency services and disaster agencies to prepare for future CO2 pipelines and sequestration projects.

• Creates a long-term trust fund to ensure the citizens, resources and environment of the state will be protected in the future.

“Having a seat at the table in these discussions is critical for the industry,” said Dave Rylander of Victoria, ICGA president.

“All sides worked towards compromise in this legislation, which creates additional regulatory framework around carbon capture and storage technology, CO2 pipelines, and provides landowner protections.”

“Carbon capture and sequestration is an important opportunity for ethanol plants and corn farmers. The technology allows corn-based ethanol to lower its carbon intensity and qualify for additional clean fuel market opportunities like sustainable aviation fuel,” said Dustin Marquis, Illinois Renewable Fuels Association president.

“With this law, CCS projects can safely move forward and positions Illinois to lead in the clean fuel industry, which benefits everyone, including our renewable fuels industry.”

Concerns

Some legislators were concerned the drinking water could be compromised if there’s a pipeline rupture. One carbon pipeline drill is proposed above the Mahomet Aquifer.

State Sen. Chaplin Rose, R-Mahomet, who voted against the legislation, was among a bipartisan group of local legislators who sent a letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker asking to protect the Mahomet Aquifer from “carbon capture” storage under it.

“The potential for leakage of injected and stored CO2 into our local water presents a clear danger. A threat which should be obvious given the earlier leakage of methane into the Mahomet Aquifer by the People’s Gas company,” Rose said.

“Given that history, why would any rational person think it is a good idea to take on the additional risk of storing more poison under our water? But that is the deal that Gov. Pritzker cut.”

The Mahomet Aquifer is a critical resource for central Illinois and is designated as a “sole source aquifer” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the EPA, less than 50% of the population in the Mahomet Aquifer service area would be able to find an economically feasible alternate source of water should the aquifer become contaminated.

“The interaction between CO2 and the aquifer’s water can produce carbonic acid, which alters the water’s chemistry. This change can mobilize dormant contaminants, including dangerous heavy metals like arsenic, leading to significant health hazards,” according to a Rose release.

“It amazes me that Gov. Pritzker, who has claimed time and again to care about the environment, is now OK with storing this poison under our water supply,” Rose said.

“The Mahomet Aquifer is our most precious natural resource in central Illinois. He needs to quit playing footsy with the pipeline companies, realize this is a mistake and veto this bill.”

Proponents

“Illinois is a national leader on climate and energy policy, and SB1289 ensures that if companies are going to use CCS as a climate mitigation strategy, they will need to meet some of the strongest standards in the nation,” said state Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, the bill’s lead sponsor.

“The CCS protections bill ensures critical guardrails are in place to protect Illinois taxpayers, landowners and our environment.”

The bill includes “do no harm” mandates for polluting facilities that attempt to capture carbon.

“Frontline environmental justice communities have long fought against CCS projects because they are false solutions to the climate crisis and risk exacerbating the already disproportionate pollution burdens on our communities,” said Juliana Pino, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization policy director.

“This legislation secures a critical, enforceable requirement that facility operators not increase dangerous air and climate pollution as a result of carbon capture projects. It also provides a critical pause on pipeline projects to allow more time for federal safety standards to be finalized.”

“For the past two and a half years, landowners, farmers and environmental advocates across the state have sounded the alarm that CO2 pipelines and carbon storage put our communities’ health, land and water in grave danger,” said Pam Richart, Coalition to Stop CO2 Pipelines co-founder.

“The moratorium on CO2 pipelines and the mandate that pipeline operators pay for and conduct enhanced modeling for emergency planning and first responders are critical steps to better protect Illinois from potential pipeline ruptures.

“However, more protections are needed and our work before the Illinois Commerce Commission will continue to ensure that places where we live, work and play are protected from dangerous carbon pipelines.”

“This bill begins to address some of the greatest threats from CCS and offers nearby communities concerned about potentially deadly leaks and disasters critical protections to guard against and address problems,” said Jenny Cassel, Earthjustice senior attorney.

“While I am profoundly disappointed that industry did not agree to our recommendation to ban injection through the Mahomet and other sole-source aquifers, the bill provides far more protections than are in place today.”

“While there are certainly difficult compromises in SB1289, the protections secured in the bill are a significant victory and should be put in place immediately,” said Jen Walling, Illinois Environmental Council executive director.

“We are committed to the ongoing work needed to protect our most precious drinking water sources and to increase landowner protections through future legislation.”

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor