EPA approves regulatory authority for ND CO2 storage

By Patrick C. Miller | May 09, 2017

After nearly four years of waiting, North Dakota on Tuesday became the first state in the nation to receive approval for primary regulatory authority over the capture and geologic storage of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Scott Pruitt, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, announced that the agency has signed a proposed rulemaking to approve North Dakota’s application to implement and enforce its own Class VI underground injection control (UIC) program for carbon capture and storage (CCS).

These wells are used for long-term storage of CO2 captured from industrial and energy-related sources. The EPA said this action reinforces Pruitt’s commitment to cooperative federalism, and will help advance carbon capture and sequestration technologies.

“Finally, after several years of trying to gain approval from the previous administration, the state can continue its efforts to implement its all-of-the-above energy strategy,” said Ron Ness, North Dakota Petroleum Council president.

“Our state has been at the forefront of developing and deploying this technology and has led the nation in establishing carbon storage prices with rules and regulations,” he continued. “We had, however, needed federal approval to fully proceed. This is a great step toward CO2 storage and ultimately advancing the use of enhanced oil recovery.”

Geologic storage of carbon dioxide is regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s Underground Injection Control Program and is classified as Class VI CO2 injection. The capture and injection of human-made CO2 into a confined geologic formation allows it to be safely stored and is expected to help reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., said, “Receiving approval from the EPA to regulate CCS will benefit all North Dakotans. This approval provides regulatory certainty to the lignite coal and energy generation industries in North Dakota, and CCS offers a long-term solution for the continued advancement of clean coal technologies.”

In June 2013, North Dakota asked the EPA to become the primary regulator over Class VI CO2 storage, but the application remained open. In an August 2016 letter, Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., questioned then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on why a decision hadn’t been made regarding North Dakota’s request.

"Nearly four years after North Dakota first made the request, the EPA—under new management—is finishing its work on the state’s application to regulate carbon capture within their state boundaries,” Cramer said.

Brad Crabtree, vice president for fossil energy at the Great Plains Institute, said, “The decision to approve the permit is long overdue; EPA should have acted on that a long time ago. I think it’s a positive thing that North Dakota wants to show leadership in this area.”

The state of North Dakota, the U.S. Department of Energy, the North Dakota Lignite Research Council and the Renewable Energy Council are actively engaged in research to develop economic capture technologies. 

“North Dakota recognized the importance of carbon storage nearly eight years ago when the legislature passed laws that gave regulatory authority to the Oil and Gas Division,” said Lynn Helms, the agency’s director.