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Pennsylvania is trying to attract and approve wells that capture carbon dioxide

HARRISBURG — On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania state Senate approved a law aimed at helping the second-largest natural gas-producing state in the country attract carbon capture projects and facilitate federally-funded hydrogen hubs, but opponents say the legislation lacks important protections.

The Pennsylvania state Senate approved a bill on Tuesday to help the state attract carbon capture projects and enable hydrogen hubs, but critics say the bill lacks important safeguards.

The bill created a framework for regulating underground wells that store carbon dioxide, an essential part of carbon capture technology to slow climate change.

The bill passed 30-20 and goes to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

Supporters believe attracting carbon capture projects to Pennsylvania is vital for two hydrogen hubs recently awarded by the Biden administration.

The bill's sponsor, Senator Gene Yaw, said it is a proactive step to make Pennsylvania a hub for carbon capture and sequestration, providing a pragmatic solution to reducing carbon emissions without compromising the electric grid's reliability.

Two hydrogen hubs are part of a $7 billion federal program intended to jumpstart hydrogen fuel production as part of President Biden’s climate agenda.

Greenhouse gases from coal or gas-powered plants can be captured and injected deep underground, and carbon capture is part of the plan to make energy production more climate friendly.

According to Yaw, a state study found that Pennsylvania could store about 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide underground, equivalent to the annual emissions of 500 million gas-powered vehicles.

Opponents argue the bill lacks protections to hold companies accountable for leaks or water contamination, ensure landowners aren’t forced into contracts with well operators, and guarantee the state has enough staff to enforce regulations. They also warned about potential disruption from pipelines associated with carbon capture wells.

Some critics believe carbon capture is oversold as a climate change solution and will only prolong the life of the fossil fuel industry.

During the debate, Democratic Sen. Katie Muth stated that capturing carbon cannot be the main component of a serious climate plan.

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro's administration wants to take over issuing permits for wells that store carbon, and is actively engaged with the EPA on the application process.

The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for allowing the use of storage wells for carbon in almost every state, with only a few exceptions. Supporters of states handling the permitting process argue that this change will speed up the approval of crucial new projects that are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Biden administration has raised tax incentives for developers of carbon capture projects and given substantial grants.

Developers have reacted by submitting numerous permit applications for new wells to the EPA, but only a small number of carbon capture projects are currently in operation, and very few wells have been approved up to now.

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