Today, at a briefing on CO2 pipeline safety, national experts called for a moratorium on hazardous carbon pipeline permitting, citing serious medical, public health and safety risks of the pipeline buildout required to meet the Biden Administration’s embrace of carbon capture technology. Just this month, Biden’s EPA launched a power plant emissions reductions plan that relies heavily on carbon capture.
“The Biden Administration’s foolhardy embrace of carbon capture is prompting a pipeline feeding frenzy that would endanger thousands of Americans. Carbon pipelines are a known threat to public health and safety. We can’t go down this road,” said Food & Water Watch Policy Director Jim Walsh. “The Biden Administration must enact a moratorium on carbon pipeline permitting until robust federal safety regulations have been finalized.”
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is currently revising federal carbon pipeline safety regulations after a 2020 rupture in Satartia, Mississippi evacuated a town and sent 49 people to the hospital. At the request of an alliance of 30 groups representing Indigenous communities, landowners, sustainable agriculture, public health, and climate organizations, the agency will hold a public meeting in Des Moines May 31-June 1 on CO2 pipeline safety.
Three controversial carbon pipeline networks proposed by Summit Carbon Solutions, Navigator CO2 and Wolf Carbon Solutions are advancing in the Midwest, absent revised safety guidelines. If built, the hazardous pipelines would cross more than 3,600 miles of the Midwest — more than half the mileage of all existing carbon pipelines nationwide.
“CO2 is a colorless, odorless gas that is immediately dangerous to life and health at just 4% concentration in the air that we breathe,” said Ted Schettler MD, MPH, Science Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network. “An accidental release of CO2 from a pipeline will hug the ground and threaten the life of anyone in its path. These pipelines should not be permitted without strong federal, state and local safety and setback regulations in place.”
“The pipeline industry claims that CO2 pipelines are as safe or safer than oil and gas pipelines, but the data suggests that some CO2 pipeline companies under-report their accidents,” said Paul Blackburn, an attorney with the Bold Alliance. “After all, when a CO2 pipeline leaks, the CO2 and most of the evidence of an accident simply evaporates. Even assuming the industry’s self-reported data is correct, it shows that the barrels of CO2 spilled per mile of pipeline in operation have increased dramatically from about three barrels per mile to about 64 barrels per mile. This is due in part to a corresponding increase in the number of accidents per mile. The safety trends are in the wrong direction.”