California Carbon Removal Plans Strike Controversy

California Carbon Removal Plans Strike Controversy - Carbon Herald
Image: Chones/Shutterstock

A draft plan by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) said the U.S. state must capture CO2 from factories and use direct air removal to achieve its carbon neutrality target by 2045. 

The estimate that one-third of emissions reduction would come from CO2 removal techniques created controversy amid concerns that the method is not feasible and creates hazards for lower-income communities. 

“The threats posed by climate change to our communities, lands and environment, health, and the economy signify an all-hands-on-deck moment for California,” CARB Chair Liane Randolph said last week as staff presented the plan to the board for the first time. “This plan puts all tools on the table.”

The draft discussed the ways California will achieve net-zero by 2045 and said both carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and direct air capture (DAC) would be used for the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. 

The Board asked staff to include more details on where CCS would be used, what potential harms it could bring, how feasible it is, and whether “we can safely and sustainably deploy this technology,” Randolph said.

CARB will vote on the final plan later in 2022. 

Relevant: California Is Focusing On Natural Carbon Capture

Washington is preparing to spend $8.2 billion on technology that catches, transports, and stores CO2 from industrial sites. The investment is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill from last year. Over 24 CCS are already operational globally, and 100 are in the works, the CARB draft said. 

Last week, CARB held a board meeting where 450 signed up to comment and – during a seven-hour-long hearing session – many said the proposal is too aggressive and would harm small businesses and low-income communities. Others argued California must take faster and stronger actions and that the CCS would keep oil refineries and industrial plants running when they should be shut down. 

Relevant: Chevron Withdraws Application For Carbon Capture Project In California

“Only a small portion of CO2 can be captured at refineries,” Julia May, senior scientist at Communities for a Better Environment, said. “CCS can’t address thousands of fugitive leaks, explosion hazards nor carcinogens either. (…) Nothing in the plan requires any refinery phaseout. In fact, CCS encourages long-term refining and green washing.”

CCS efforts would be postponed for a few years “because of anticipated issues with project permitting,” CARB spokesperson Dave Clegern said, and are expected to begin in 2028 and only in refineries and cement sites. 

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