Panel will study carbon-emission storage

Gov. Bill Ritter has instructed his administration to create a task force to study numerous questions surrounding the concept of storing carbon underground to keep it from contributing to climate change.

The Ritter administration is taking the step to help support Colorado’s coal industry at a time of increasing concern about that fuel’s contribution to carbon levels in the atmosphere.

“While carbon capture and storage technology is still in development, it’s to everyone’s benefit that we act now to establish a stable regulatory environment by addressing the questions we know are in front of us,” Jim Martin, the state Department of Natural Resources’ executive director, said in a news release Wednesday.

One question is: Who should own the underground geological formations where carbon dioxide would be injected and stored — landowners, mineral owners, or the state or federal government? Another is: Who should own the stored carbon dioxide?

The panel will consider appropriate environmental and health regulations, what agency should set standards for injection, what agency should regulate and permit injection, who should manage sequestration sites in the long term, and how associated infrastructure should be handled.

State Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, Sen. Al White, R-Steamboat Springs, Rep. Clare Levy, D-Boulder, and Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, will serve on the task force. It will have two members each from the utility, coal and oil and gas industries, and one each from cement and conservation interests. Representatives of the state Department of Public Health and Environment and Department of Natural Resources also will participate in the monthly task force meetings.

The panel will meet with the goal of developing legislation for state lawmakers to consider next year. It will review efforts by states including Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana that already have considered or passed legislation addressing aspects of regulating carbon sequestration.

In a related and ongoing Ritter administration initiative, the Colorado Geological Survey is the lead investigator in a $5.48 million study in Moffat County to determine whether underground sandstone formations would be suitable to sequester large volumes of carbon dioxide from area industrial facilities. The U.S. Department of Energy is supporting that project.


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