Recommendations for New CCS Task Force

Scott Anderson, EDF Senior Policy Advisor

EDF welcomed today’s announcement by President Obama establishing an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

In the next six months, the Task Force is charged with proposing a plan to “overcome the barriers to the widespread, cost-effective deployment of CCS within 10 years, with a goal of bringing 5 to 10 commercial demonstration projects online by 2016.”

“By 2016?” a reporter asked me. “Is that doable?” I responded yes, absolutely. CCS as a technical matter is ready for deployment now.

While there are two fundamental obstacles to widespread deployment of CCS, it’s my opinion (and that of EDF) that both can be addressed in well under 10 years. Those obstacles are:

  1. Lack of a market driver – Congress needs to set a limit on carbon emissions to make CCS economically attractive to project developers. If necessary, EPA acting under the Clean Air Act can help create incentives.
  2. Lack of a regulatory framework – We need adoption of rules pending approval for 2010-2011 under EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act, followed by rules on verifying the lack of air emissions.

Other important topics the task force will want to consider include:

  • Improving capacity assessment techniques by the U.S. Geological Survey;
  • Developing leasing policies for federal lands;
  • Assisting research and development efforts on the costs of capture;
  • Assisting in geologic characterization efforts, especially in basins that have relatively challenging geology, such as the Appalachian basin;
  • Clarification of who owns the storage space underground;
  • Consideration of state law mechanisms for amalgamating storage space owned by multiple owners (i.e., eminent domain issues); and
  • Whether to indemnify early adopters for any potential liabilities.

Some say the last three bullet points are absolutely necessary, others disagree. I do not believe that they are “make or break” obstacles but they’re certainly worth serious deliberation.

Again, with a market driver and regulatory framework, we will have resolved the only two fundamental obstacles to widespread deployment of CCS. Subsequently, bringing five to 10 commercial demonstration projects online by 2016 will definitely be achievable.

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