Carbon-Storage Rules for U.S. Coal Plants Issued to Shield Drinking Water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued rules to protect drinking-water supplies from future efforts to bury pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The regulation is a major step in the federal government’s effort to promote a “promising technology” capturing carbon dioxide that otherwise would be emitted from smokestacks and injecting it into geologic formations such as deep-saline aquifers and depleted oil reservoirs, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said today in an e-mailed statement.

The drinking-water regulation governs the way carbon- dioxide injection wells are located, built, tested, monitored and closed. A task force of 14 U.S. agencies said in August that carbon-capture technology is currently too expensive to be used without financial and regulatory support from the federal government.

Rules governing the “environmental soundness of injecting and storing carbon dioxide underground” must be part of a federal plan to “facilitate widespread cost-effective deployment” of the pollution-control technology after 2020, according to the task force.

A separate EPA rule also released today deals with measuring the amount of carbon dioxide that’s captured and stored.

U.S. legislation requiring power plants to pay a price for carbon dioxide they release into the air must also be passed to create a “stable framework for investment” in carbon-capture technology, the task force said. Legislation to put a price on carbon narrowly passed the House last year and stalled in the Senate.

Carbon dioxide is among greenhouse gases that scientists have linked to climate change. President Barack Obama has said the U.S. should aim to cut greenhouse-gas emissions about 17 percent from their 2005 level by 2020.

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