Home Part of States Newsroom
Weakened carbon storage regulations advance from Louisiana House


Weakened carbon storage regulations advance from Louisiana House

Apr 17, 2024 | 9:29 am ET
By Wesley Muller
Weakened carbon storage regulations advance from Louisiana House
A drilling rig similar to this one was used in Lake Maurepas as a test well for Air Products' carbon storage project. (Image courtesy of Air Products)

Louisiana House lawmakers advanced a watered-down proposal Tuesday to bring more public oversight and safety guidelines to carbon storage projects after the state allowed drilling within an environmentally recovering ecosystem despite widespread opposition from residents and local governments.

House Bill 516, sponsored by Rep. Shane Mack, R-Albany, cleared the lower chamber without objection as floor proceedings wound down following hours of debate on so-called “culture war” bills

Although Mack’s bill picked up a floor amendment that essentially overhauled the proposal, it did not draw a single question from the 100 or so lawmakers preparing to adjourn for the day. 

The bill is essentially a continuation of what the freshman legislator worked on as a Livingston Parish Council member, which included a parishwide moratorium on injection wells and requiring carbon storage projects to be placed in industrial areas. 

The Livingston council’s efforts came in response to a widespread and consistent public outcry over two large carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects. CCS is a process by which an industrial plant traps its carbon dioxide emissions and pipes them deep below the earth’s surface, permanently storing the gas in rock formations. 

One project from chemical giant Air Products involves drilling wells in Lake Maurepas to store carbon dioxide, piped over from its facility in Ascension Parish, about a mile below the lake bed. The other from Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, is planned for the Holden area. 

A federal court eventually struck down Livingston’s moratorium, ruling that authority over such projects lies with the Louisiana Legislature rather than local governments. 

After winning a state house seat last year, Mack is seeking to address the issue with House Bill 516, which is a relatively comprehensive proposal that would have, under its initial version, allowed some local control over CCS projects. It included requiring companies to adopt emergency response plans with public training and community outreach regarding evacuation plans. 

Lake Maurepas carbon capture project draws increasing opposition

Another provision would have prevented the state from issuing any Class VI well permits for a project not in compliance with local zoning ordinances. It also would have required companies to perform additional groundwater testing for contaminants and made the data subject to Louisiana’s Public Records Law. 

Mack said his primary reasons for bringing the bill are to try to ensure CCS projects are safe for the community and transparent to the public.

A floor amendment from Rep. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, gutted most of those provisions from the bill. 

Mack’s proposal ran into some obstacles early. During an April 4 hearing in the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, Riser expressed concern that some proposed aspects might be inconsistent with federal regulations and could deter international investment into other pending CCS projects across the state.

“This is such a large investment that we do not want to interrupt it on a global basis raising the money,” he said.

Riser was mainly concerned about a provision that would require a company to file detailed maps of the project with the parish clerk of court, showing the locations of all the injection wells, among other things. Mack said that section of the bill was not as important to him as others and agreed to accept an amendment from Riser on the House floor Tuesday to address it. 

Mack was more protective of a requirement that carbon storage wells have a setback of 2 miles from the corporate limits of any municipality, residences, schools and hospitals. But pro-industry lawmakers on the committee wanted to slash the setback by 95%, amending it to 500 feet. The dispute went to a vote that settled it in favor of the 500-foot setback. 

Riser’s floor amendment made another slash at the setback, removing the entire provision as it applied to the corporate limits of a municipality. Its current version keeps it at 500 feet for inhabited dwellings, schools and hospitals. 

The amendment also deleted all mention of local zoning ordinances, removing the power Mack sought to give local governments.    

Also gone is the provision that would have required groundwater testing data to be subject to public records law. Riser’s amendment replaced it after the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources voiced concern with it. The new version would require testing twice per year but removes all references to the data being a public record, a key part of the bill Rep. Jason Dewitt, R-Boyce, wanted to see implemented. 

“Let’s make sure we have plenty of transparency with all the departments that are gonna be involved in this and that the public has access to the data,” Dewitt said. “And let’s educate [the public] on that and make sure they understand how to get the data.”

The bill next heads to the Senate for consideration.