BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Proposed carbon capture projects continue to draw controversy and public backlash in Louisiana, but Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards remained adamant this week that the practice is a “safe” way to reduce the state’s industrial emissions.
About 50 Louisiana residents traveled to Baton Rouge on Tuesday to speak in opposition to a global gas supply company’s application for a test well permit in Lake Maurepas, where they plan to store carbon dioxide underground, The Advocate reported.
Most speakers at the hearing demanded that the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources pause approval of Air Products’ project until the company releases an environmental impact statement detailing exactly how it would affect the lake and surrounding area.
But as residents, lawmakers and activists debated the project, Edwards voiced his support of carbon capture.
“As I’ve said many times, I believe in the safety and the science that underlies carbon capture and sequestration. I know it is an essential part not just to our climate action plan here in Louisiana to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, but really the plans for our country and the world,” Edwards said during his monthly call-in radio show Wednesday.
These types of projects, which capture airborne carbon emissions created during industrial production and store them deep underground, are gaining traction since Congress approved $3.5 billion for them last year.
In a November 2021 report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s top scientists said carbon capture and storage technology has to be part of the range of solutions to decarbonize and mitigate climate change. But they notably added that solar and wind energy and electricity storage are improving faster than carbon capture and storage.
Opponents of carbon capture and storage argue that projects pose threats to the public health of communities long plagued by air and water pollution.
Critics say prolonging the lifespan of an existing industrial facility presents additional environmental harm by extending the amount of time it pollutes. In addition, because carbon capture requires more energy to power the equipment, it results in more air pollution because the technology can catch only a portion of the carbon emitted.
Injection sites have generated controversy in Louisiana. Most recently, Livingston Parish enacted a moratorium on carbon-injection wells following public outcry. A judge will decide at a hearing in January if the drilling ban is enforceable, or if parish officials must allow the work to proceed, according to The Advocate.
However that hasn’t stopped other companies from seeking similar projects.
In October, ExxonMobil, CF Industries and EnLink Midstream entered into an agreement to remove 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually — equivalent to what would be produced by nearly 431,000 gas-powered cars driven for one year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The project aims to capture emissions from CF Industries’ ammonia production plant in Donaldsonville — the top greenhouse gas industrial emitter in the state, according to a 2021 state report — and store the carbon underground in Vermillion Parish. Officials estimate the startup date to be in 2025.
While Edwards supports the increasing number of carbon capture projects, he also said he thinks it is important that state officials and leaders of these companies do more to address public concerns and explain the science and safety.
“It is something that I believe in, but I know that we have more work to do in educating people, listening to them and answering their questions,” Edwards said.