Environmental Stewardship

EPA to Grant Wyoming Authority over Underground Injection Wells

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a new rulemaking that will put Wyoming in charge of a growing sector: carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS). In other words, Wyoming will soon be responsible for regulating its underground injection wells, which are used to store and sequester captured carbon dioxide emissions underground.

 “Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality staff, the Legislature, the Trump Administration and others have worked very hard to move this forward,” said Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon. “By gaining primacy, the State of Wyoming is in the best position to ensure that this activity is overseen correctly, the process is efficient, and our natural resources are developed and protected.”

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Congress gave the federal government authority to regulate these wells, while allowing the EPA to delegate this responsibility to the states. Since then, mismanagement by the federal government has hampered industry growth.

The R Street Institute’s William Murray published a report detailing this. Murray found lag time in permissions, onerous reporting requirements and liability issues associated with federal regulatory approval. Unsurprisingly, developers of CCUS projects prefer the state approval process. These factors led to the Wyoming governor’s request for regulatory authority from the EPA, believing his state would be able to review and approve injection wells more efficiently.

ALEC’s EEA task force adopted a model resolution on injection wells at the 2018 States and Nation Policy Summit (SNPS). The resolution urged states to create regulatory plans for injection wells and apply to the EPA for permits to have primary regulatory responsibility. Until now, North Dakota has been the only state to apply for and receive responsibility for injection wells.

Wyoming’s commitment to develop CCUS technologies makes the state deserving of primary regulatory responsibility over injection wells. In 2014, then Governor Matt Mead worked with the state legislature to create the Integrated Test Center, a facility to test the capture, utilization and storage of carbon dioxide from a nearby coal-fired power plant. ALEC members may remember learning about this from Jason Begger, the Executive Director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority which oversees the center, who spoke at the 2019 SNPS meeting. This type of carbon capture facility is rare, just the second in the U.S., and there are only a handful in the world.

Wyoming will soon be able to better promote CCUS by processing applications faster and applying a lighter regulatory touch than the federal government. Other states should take note. Consistent with ALEC federalism principles, Wyoming will soon have greater opportunity to reap the economic benefits of a developing industry.

In Depth: Environmental Stewardship

Listen to any news broadcast, read any press release from an environmental advocacy group or simply watch the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) propose new regulation after new regulation, and it would be nearly impossible to not come away concerned or even fearful of imminent environmental disaster. It should come…

+ Environmental Stewardship In Depth