On Dec. 28, Louisiana joined a handful of states the EPA has awarded primacy—the authority for permitting, compliance and enforcement of Class VI carbon sequestration wells under the agency’s Underground Injection Control Program.

The state still has a wait ahead of it. The rule will take effect 30 days after it has been published in the Federal Register. But state officials appear eager to get started on nearly four dozen carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects in the works.

“We will be meeting with EPA officials starting this week to arrange the logistics for that handoff,” Patrick Courreges, director of communications at the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) told Hart Energy. “There is that 30-day period after the Federal Register, but we are staffed up and ready to roll.”

About 22 permits already under consideration by the EPA will be transferred to the state.

State Commissioner of Conservation Monique M. Edwards said applications filed with the EPA are just the start. Organizationally, Louisiana’s Office of Conservation, a division of DNR, has jurisdiction over the wells.

“We have seen unprecedented interest in carbon sequestration projects over the past couple of years, with companies reaching out to our office to express interest in what the regulatory landscape will be,” Edwards said.

The Office of Conservation also created a web page to provide more information on the Class VI regulatory process and to track ongoing projects as applications are submitted.

“There will probably be a logjam of new permit applications at the start,” Courreges said. “We are asking everyone for a little patience in the first few weeks.”

The initial meetings between state and federal regulators will focus on the permits being transferred from the EPA. “Our process is actually more restrictive than the EPA’s,” Courreges said. “On things that are just a matter of ticking boxes, being sure they have this or that, things should go fairly quickly. And if applicants have done their homework and have all the information … there should not be many problems. But it is possible we may have to start fresh in a few cases.”

Louisiana is only the third state to have primacy over Class VI wells, according to an analysis by the New Orleans office of Hinshaw & Culbertson, a national law firm with a large energy practice and a focus on CCS.

The process for granting primacy has been a long one for Louisiana, the Hinshaw analysis noted. The state originally submitted its primacy application to the EPA in the spring of 2021, then revised the application in the fall.

The EPA considered input from four public hearings—one held in July 2021 and three more in June of 2023. The EPA also reviewed more than 45,000 comments received from the proposal and a Notice of Availability.

“An important component of Louisiana's Class VI program is implementing an environmental justice analysis,” Hinshaw said. “Key safety and environmental considerations will be intertwined with the Class VI application process to protect the health and well-being of all communities. The EPA has included specific environmental justice provisions in the memorandum of agreement between the EPA and Louisiana. These environmental justice commitments are now a clear benchmark for any state that seeks Class VI primacy in the future.”

Some of those requirements include:

  • An enhanced, inclusive public participation process;
  • An analysis of environmental justice impacts on communities in permitting, including environmental hazards, exposure pathways, as well as susceptible subpopulations;
  • Incorporation of other mitigation measures to ensure Class VI projects do not increase environmental impacts and public health risks in already overburdened communities; and
  • Measures designed to protect residential areas, which could include CO2 monitoring and release notification networks and installation of enhanced pollution controls.

“Operators should invest in working with local communities to build trust and provide accurate information regarding Class VI well operations and the science behind CCS,” Hinshaw said. “Overall, the news about Louisiana being granted primacy yesterday was well received by everyone watching and waiting for this historic day.”

Hinshaw said more than 45 projects are currently underway in Louisiana, with more to come now that primacy has been granted.

“These projects will now be able to move forward under the watchful eye of the state, and they will be a real economic driver for the state as a whole, including those communities where these projects will be sited and developed.”