Martin and Mills Discuss Obstacles in Developing Carbon Sequestration Projects Needed to Reach 2050 Net-Zero GHG Emissions Target


Natural resource law partner Eric Martin and environmental law partner Michael Mills contributed an article to POWER magazine titled “Net-Zero Without Carbon Sequestration Is ‘Virtually Impossible’; Yet Site Acquisition and Permitting Hurdles Hinder Implementation,” published February 1, 2022. The authors discuss the obstacles hindering implementation of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) in the U.S. CCS is recognized as a critical element in reaching a global goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that to limit warming to 2.7 oF above pre-industrial levels, net-zero emissions must be reached on a global level by 2050. A net-zero target has been set by more than 70 countries, though with varying levels of timing and commitment.

The authors note that despite emissions in California and the U.S. having been on downward trends since 2000, the reductions are not occurring at the pace needed to achieve a 2050 net-zero goal. Geologic carbon sequestration – storing the CO2 from captured emissions underground permanently – could have a large impact in increasing the pace of reduction but has been held up by obstacles that in the U.S. include:

  • The difficulty of acquiring subsurface rights for a sequestration site, as well as for the rights-of-way needed to transport the CO2 from sources to the site.
  • Long federal permitting times for sequestration projects.

The authors conclude: “With carbon sequestration projects being permitted and developed in California, Louisiana, and North Dakota, carbon sequestration is moving forward in the U.S. notwithstanding these site acquisition and permitting timeline hurdles. However, as the broad utilization of carbon sequestration is critical to realizing net-zero emissions by 2050, removing or lowering these hurdles is a climate imperative that policymakers on both federal and state levels need to consider and take action to address.”

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