Lawmakers Getting Closer to CO2 Bill

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Lawmakers have reached an agreement on which bill seeking to regulate carbon dioxide storage will move forward.

Leading Democrats have been working with Sen. Keith Bales, R-Otter, on his Senate Bill 498, which was approved by the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee on Tuesday and now moves to the full Senate.

Rep. Mike Phillips, D-Bozeman, has said he plans to drop his competing measure.

SB498 creates a state regulatory framework for underground storage of carbon dioxide, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants or other energy plants.

“For companies to come in and plan on building any facility that emits carbon, they need to have some knowledge that the state has a program in place, (so) they can plan how to dispose of the carbon dioxide,” Bales said.

He said he thinks it could be eight to 10 years before carbon storage is used.

“This is a long-term process out there,” Bales said.

The bill would require developers to accept liability for the stored carbon dioxide for 20 years after it’s injected into the ground. It also requires the state Board of Oil and Gas to consult the state Department of Environmental Quality before it could issue permits for carbon storage.

However, the bill does not yet define who owns the underground “pore space,” the areas where CO2 would be stored.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer had supported Phillips’ bill and has said he would veto any carbon sequestration bill unless it defines pore space.

Phillips said he hopes to address the definition of pore space when SB498 comes to the House. Bales said it’s likely that the bill may declare the surface owner of the land as owner of the pore space.

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