EPA rule won’t treat captured CO2 as hazardous waste

A final rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Dec. 19 should help ensure that carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from power plants and injected underground won’t be treated as hazardous waste.

EPA said in a news release that the action helps create a consistent national framework for deployment of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies.

“Carbon capture and sequestration technology can help us reduce carbon pollution and move us toward a cleaner, more stable environment,” said Mathy Stanislaus, EPA assistant administrator for Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “Today’s rule provides regulatory clarity to help facilitate the implementation of this technology in a safe and responsible way,” Stanislaus said.

CCS technologies allow carbon dioxide to be captured at stationary sources – like coal-fired power plants and large industrial operations – and injected underground for long-term storage in a process called geologic sequestration.

The new rule clarifies that carbon dioxide streams captured from emission sources, injected underground via underground injection control (UIC) Class VI wells approved for the purpose of geologic sequestration under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and meeting certain other conditions (for example compliance with applicable transportation regulations), will be excluded from EPA’s hazardous waste regulations. Further, EPA clarifies that CO2 injected underground via UIC Class II wells for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) is not expected to be a waste management activity.

CO2 streams used for such purposes don’t present a substantial risk to human health or the environment, EPA found. The rule is complementary to previous EPA rulemakings, including Safe Drinking Water Act regulations that ensure the Class VI injection wells are appropriately sited, constructed, tested, monitored, and closed.

EPA is taking this action to reduce regulatory uncertainty, consistent with one of the recommendations made by President Obama’s Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in August 2010, EPA said.

The conditional exclusion applies to generators, transporters, and owners or operators of treatment, storage, and disposal facilities engaged in the management of carbon dioxide streams that would otherwise be regulated as hazardous wastes under the RCRA subtitle C hazardous waste regulations as part of geologic sequestration activities.

EPA is also in the process of drawing up CO2 standards for new and existing power plants.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.