Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Senate Environmental Committee Info Session On Carbon Capture Discusses Job Potential; Reaching Net-Zero Carbon Goal; Impacts/Risks Of The Technology; PA’s Poor Track Record In Regulating Pipelines, Oil & Gas Industry

On June 7, the
Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held its third information session on carbon capture technology and covered its job potential, how it could help reach a net-zero carbon emissions goal and the environmental and other impacts and risks.

Also discussed was the poor track record Pennsylvania has had regulating pipelines--  which are a key part of a carbon capture technology-- and some parts of the oil and gas industry.

Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee,  said,  “The purpose today is to… get a briefing and get some information as to where we are with carbon capture, where we might be going, and just to fill us in a little bit of what's happening and where we should go, maybe what we should be doing legislatively to help.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Sen. Yaw said, “It sounds to me like we come down to a simple question. If we want carbon capture or we want to try and reduce carbon by 2050, we either have to be in favor of the infrastructure to support that or we're not. 

“It's a pretty simple question, and I guess that ties in with the thing or the comment that I made earlier, living has some risk to it. 

“And I'm not saying dive in and not pay attention to whether, and Mr. Peltz’s comments about what we need to watch and regulate. That's fine and we need to do that. 

“But even [with] the best of regulation, somewhere along the line, there may be an accident.”

“My feeling is that one of the things that we have to do, we can't keep operating out of fear. Now we can say in here, "Well, I'm afraid to walk down these stairs over here because somebody might fall. Here we have tile on the hallway and somebody might fall. We should eliminate that." 

“Somewhere along the line, just being alive is a risk and we have to be willing to make some reasonable risk changes here because I think we can cover every possibility and all we're going to end up doing is we're going to delay this.”

“Every one of us, probably, in this room flies. And you know what? Every once in a while a plane crashes. I don't like that idea when I fly, but that's part of life as we know it today. 

“And I think that that's where we are. We either accept that there has to be an infrastructure built or we don't. It doesn't sound to me from this panel that there's much of a choice.”

Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester), Minority Chair of the Committee, said, “This is at least the second hearing that we've had on carbon capture technology, and a lot of this information is very complex and technical. 

“So I continue to welcome the opportunity to learn more about carbon capture and explore some of those questions and concerns that have been raised by environmental advocates and my constituents. 

“There's a wide range of views in the environmental community and the business community on carbon capture. 

“I think it's important that we keep a good focus on the complexities so that to get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, we can all work together to embrace the entire portfolio of options and strategies, including energy efficiency, renewables, and the transition from emissions to clean energy. 

“As part of that portfolio, we're looking at the potential for targeted technologies like carbon capture.

“Again, to reiterate, carbon capture may be part of the solution, but it's likely not going to be the solution. 

“I also think it's important that we ensure that the promise aligns with the reality and the potential risks. 

“Carbon capture would require a network of thousands of miles of pipelines. 

“My constituents have already raised significant concerns about the safety of CO2 pipelines. Remember that communities across the Commonwealth are still learning the lessons of the natural gas industry, and we're still managing the impacts of fracking and an expanding pipeline infrastructure. 

“So it's important that we be mindful of all of that. As I've said, Pennsylvania needs a cohesive economy-wide approach to net-zero that includes a variety of approaches. 

“I appreciate the opportunity to continue to discuss where carbon capture falls in that mix.

“Lastly, I want to drive home that any approach we take must be done wisely and effectively from environmental, economic, sustainability, environmental justice, public health and safety standpoints. Thank you so much.”

Key Takeaways From Meeting

Here are some key takeaways from the information session--

-- Shell Delivers On Large-Scale Projects, It Can Deliver On Decarbonization: Lee Stockwell, General Manager of CCS for Shell USA, said Shell has a global commitment to decarbonization and with the start of operations as Shell’s Petrochemical Plant in Beaver County they recognize there are opportunities to decarbonize the plant and be a leader regionally in decarbonization.

“This is an opportunity that will require leadership from someone with experience in delivering large scale industrial projects that are game changers for the region. Shell understands the path and collaboration needed for a new decarbonization project in the tri-state region, and investment needed to deliver.”

When Sen. Katie Muth (D-Chester) asked him about all the issues Shell has had in starting up their Beaver County plant, including a $10 million penalty for exceeding air emissions, Stockwell said he can’t comment on that because it is not his area of responsibility.

-- Carbon Capture & Storage Can Be Part Of PA’s Next Chapter Of Energy Leadership: Kevin Sunday, Director of Government Affairs for PA Chamber, said, “As our nation and our allies abroad look to meet their energy goals, which include affordable and reliable supplies of energy that are produced responsibly and sustainably by, ideally, free-market democracies, CCUS [Carbon capture & storage] can be used to lower emissions and enable zero-emissions production of hydrocarbons, electricity and vital commodities like steel and fertilizer.”

“CCUS can be leveraged in additional heavy industries, including steel, cement, and fertilizer production.  Doing so will require an expanded network of pipeline infrastructure and a regulatory environment that provides certainty to those looking to invest in the space.”

“Expanded use of carbon capture, utilization, and storage can benefit many of Pennsylvania’s existing industries and expand new innovations. As the committee is well aware, the Shell ethane processing facility in Monaca is an anchor of a proposed regional carbon capture and hydrogen production hub.

“Several leading energy producers and manufacturers are also proposing another hub in Appalachia that would also benefit manufacturers in Pennsylvania that look for sustainably produced, low-emissions hydrogen to reduce emissions from steel and iron production.”

“Another of Pennsylvania’s leading energy companies, CONSOL, is partnering with the US Department of Energy on a project to develop an innovative “power plant of the future” that uses a mix of waste coal and biomass to offset emissions. 

“Coupled with CCUS, the concept is for this to be one of the first CO2-negative power plant in the nation. CO2 emissions would be sequestered deep underground.  Making this project, and others like it, a reality will require a workable state and federal regulatory framework.”

-- Opportunity For Good Playing Jobs, But We Have To Act Quickly: Robert Blair, President of PA Building Trades, said, “I spent 36 years in the power generation industry and I have built industries across this country from nuclear to coal and natural gas, hydro, wind, solar. It's just in the last five years, this country has gotten serious about cleaning up the environment. 

“And we have this goal to get there by 2050. If we're going to get there by 2050, we need to get moving now. 

“I know how long it takes to build a project and my guys built the cracker plant. If we want to clean up Pennsylvania, we need carbon capture and we need hydrogen. 

“We need our renewables, and we need all our alternatives. Carbon capture is what's going to allow us to continue to generate sufficient electrical generation in the natural gas industry.”

“We're talking a brand new industry, so we need to get moving. We need to make sure we do it right. I've heard the gentleman's concerns from the Environmental Defense [Fund], and he is correct. We do have a lot of issues we need to make sure we take care of.”

-- Get The Rules Right From The Beginning, Robust Enforcement: Adam Peltz, Director and Senior Attorney, Energy Transition, Environmental Defense Fund, said, “Pennsylvania policymakers and industry stakeholders have made it clear that they see carbon sequestration as a meaningful pathway toward decarbonizing Pennsylvania’s economy, especially in light of recent efforts to pursue U.S. Department of Energy funding toward the development of a blue hydrogen hub utilizing CO2 storage.”

Peltz noted carbon capture would not be economical without the federal funding.

“EDF recognizes that economy-wide decarbonization will require CO2 storage at scale across a variety of use cases. In order to ensure that such deployment is constructive for both the climate and communities, CO2 sequestration policies and applications must:

-- Be technically sound and economically justified as compared to available decarbonization alternatives for the given application;

-- Meaningfully address community considerations through transparent consultation, collaboration, and proactive mitigation efforts; and

-- Be deployed under policies, incentives, and regulatory programs designed to ensure the safety and environmental integrity of projects across their life cycle – including capture, transportation, sequestration, and long-term oversight.”

Peltz layout out issues Pennsylvania will need to address to have an effective carbon capture program--

-- Liability Management for storage facilities and related to Class VI underground injection well program;

-- Long-Term Stewardship on storage facilities;

-- Regulatory Capacity of whichever state agencies will be regulating these facilities;

-- Safeguards related to seismic activity;

-- Community Impacts and Environmental Justice

“As Pennsylvania works toward frameworks to govern geologic sequestration of CO2 and supporting activities, it is critical that the Commonwealth get the rules right and be prepared to enforce those rules competently and robustly.”

-- PA Natural Gas Industry, PA Pipelines Have Problems, But It Wasn’t Built With PA Labor: Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) and Sen. Katie Muth (D-Chester) noted development of hydrogen and carbon capture industries will result in the need for hundreds of miles of pipelines in Pennsylvania.  

The natural gas pipeline industry in the state has the worst environmental compliance record of any industry [Read more here.]

In response to these concerns, Robert Blair from the PA Building Trades said, “I heard the Senators’ comments about-- we had some issues with the natural gas industry and some of the problems-- and we did, and my response to that is-- that's because we didn't build a lot of that out with Pennsylvania workers.

“Now, Senator Muth and I have had this conversation many times, and I can tell you that if I'm welding on a pipeline and it's within a mile of my kids' bus stop, you can be sure that's going to be the best weld I have ever made or any of my men have made.”

“As somebody that was very instrumental in working with [Sunoco] and getting the Mariner East [Pipeline] done, I held [Sunoco] to a higher standard. And they let me down a couple times, and I chewed them out about it, because one of the things that didn't happen when the [Sunoco] Mariner East was [built] we didn't have a lot of Pennsylvania workers working on it.

“If I would have been in your backyard, it would have been done right. I have a stake in this community. I live here; I've lived here my whole life. I think we've learned a lot of lessons from past construction.”

-- Did Not Do A Very Good Job Regulating Conventional Oil/Gas Wells: Also in response to concerns about effectively regulating oil and gas facilities, Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) said, “Pennsylvania has done a pretty good job with [regulating] the unconventional [shale gas industry], with well site bonding and monitoring and everything. 

“Quite frankly, we probably did not do a very good job with conventional [oil and gas operators] that had been going on for a hundred years or more than a hundred years. 

“And that's why we have, I don't know, [have] 70,000 orphan wells out there, which are all the vertical wells, but we don't even know where they are. 

“And it is an environmental problem that we have to address. And I think we are addressing it as well as the federal government's addressing it [reference to federal taxpayer-funded conventional well plugging program].”

Hearing Video/Written Testimony

Click Here to watch a video of the hearing.

Written testimony from the hearing--

-- Lee Stockwell, General Manager of CCS for Shell USA

-- Adam Peltz, Director and Senior Attorney, Energy Transition, Environmental Defense Fund

-- Kevin Sunday, Director of Government Affairs for PA Chamber

-- Robert Blair, President of PA Building Trades + IBB Pittsburgh Presentation On Carbon Capture + Rhodium Group Carbon Capture Economic Impact Study + Rhodium Group Review of Projects

Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-3280 or sending email to:   Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-5709 or sending email to:

Resource Links:

-- PA Environmental Council: Clean Hydrogen & Carbon Capture Can Be Part Of A Comprehensive Decarbonization Strategy: Responsibly Deployed With Environmental Integrity, Accountability And Equity  [PaEN]

-- Ohio/PA Train Derailment, Pipeline Explosions, Uncontrolled Releases Put Spotlight On Public Health, Safety Threats Posed By Petrochemical, Natural Gas Industrial And Pipeline Infrastructure In PA  [PaEN]  

-- Attorney General Henry Charges 2 With Criminal Risking Catastrophe Charges Related To Work On Natural Gas Pipeline In Lawrence County; Pipelines Have Worst Environmental Compliance Record In PA  [PaEN]

-- Senate Environmental Committee Sept. 19 Carbon Capture Information Briefing  [2022]  

-- Senate Environmental Committee Hears About Using Carbon Capture Technology To Reduce PA’s Carbon Footprint  [2021]   [PaEN]

-- Sen. Yaw To Introduce Bill Promoting Carbon Capture, Utilization And Sequestration  [PaEN]

-- Guest Essay: Carbon Capture And Storage - A False Solution  [PaEN]

PA Oil & Gas Public Notice Dashboards:

-- MarkWest Liberty Midstream Files To Clean Up 10,000 Gallon Natural Gas Condensate Spill Caused By December’s Winter Storm Elliot Freeze In Washington County  [PaEN] 

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - June 3 to 9:   Plugged Conventional Well Frack-Out; 10 More NOVs For Abandoning Conventional Wells  [PaEN] 

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - June 10   [PaEN]

-- DEP Posts 51 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In June 10 PA Bulletin  [PaEN] 

Related Articles This Week:

-- Penn State Extension Hosts Virtual Fundamentals Of Carbon Capture And CO2 Flooding Workshop June 27  [PaEN]

-- Senate Republicans Pass Bill Taking ‘Protection’ Out Of The Name Of Department Of Environmental Protection; But DEP Doesn’t Have To Change Its Signs Until They Wear Out  [PaEN]

-- House Committee Reports Out Bill Requiring The Evaluation Of Cumulative Impacts Of Some New Pollution Sources On Communities Already Burdened By Pollution; And Other Bills  [PaEN]

-- Republicans, Shale Gas Industry Oppose House Bill Requiring The Evaluation Of Cumulative Impacts Of Some New Pollution Sources On Communities Already Burdened By Pollution  [PaEN]

-- Inside Climate News: Abandoned Conventional Oil/Natural Gas Wells Emit Carcinogens, Other Harmful Pollutants In PA, Study Shows  [PaEN]

[Posted: June 7, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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