Key scientific assessments have underscored the urgency of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) to address climate change. Many have cited carbon capture and storage (CCS) as an essential technology because it has the potential to greatly reduce CO2 emissions from power plants while allowing for projected increases in electricity demand. CCS involves capturing CO2 from a power plant's emissions, transporting it to an underground storage location, and then injecting it into a geologic formation for long-term storage. As requested, GAO examined (1) key economic, legal, regulatory, and technological barriers impeding commercial-scale deployment of CCS technology and (2) actions the Department of Energy (DOE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other agencies are taking to overcome barriers to commercial-scale deployment of CCS technology. Among other things, GAO examined key studies and contacted officials from pertinent agencies, companies, and environmental groups, as well as research and other organizations.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Energy||1. The Secretary of Energy should direct the Office of Fossil Energy to continue its recent budgetary practice of helping to ensure that greater emphasis is placed on supporting technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions at existing coal-fired power plants.|
|Environmental Protection Agency||2. The Administrator of EPA should more comprehensively examine barriers to CCS development by identifying key issues that fall outside the agency's Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) authority. Specifically, the Administrator should direct the cognizant EPA offices to collectively examine their authorities and responsibilities under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), and the Clean Air Act for the purposes of (1) obtaining the information necessary to make informed decisions about the regulation of (and potential liabilities associated with) the capture, injection, and storage of CO2; (2) using this information to develop a comprehensive regulatory framework for capture, injection, and underground storage of CO2; and (3) identifying any areas where additional statutory authority might be needed to address key regulatory and legal issues related to CO2 capture, injection, and storage.|
|Executive Office of the President||3. The Executive Office of the President should establish an interagency task force (or other mechanism as deemed appropriate) to examine the broad range of issues that, if not addressed proactively, could impede large-scale commercial CCS deployment and to develop a strategy for cognizant federal agencies to address these issues. Among the issues this task force should examine are: (1) identifying strategies for addressing regulatory and legal uncertainty that could impede the use of federal lands for the injection, storage, and transport of CO2; (2) examining how any regulation of carbon emissions will address leakage of stored CO2 into the atmosphere; (3) developing an accounting protocol to quantify the CO2 emissions from capture, transport, injection, and storage of CO2 in geologic formations; (4) examining CO2 pipeline infrastructure issues in the context of developing a large-scale national CCS program; (5) developing a public outreach effort to explain CCS; (6) evaluating the efficacy of existing federal financial incentives authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and other relevant laws in furthering the deployment of CCS; and (7) examining the federal and state resources required to implement the EPA's expanded Underground Injection Control program incorporating commercial-scale CCS.|