Wyoming Passes Carbon Capture & Sequestration Legislation
Law Helps Smooth Way For “Clean Coal”
Last week, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed a bill that recognizes that surface owners control the underground pore spaces where carbon dioxide could be stored or sequestered. A companion bill, gives the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality the authority to regulate the long-term storage of carbon dioxide.
“With the signing of these two bills today, Wyoming puts itself in the forefront of carbon sequestration legislation. This is a forward-thinking approach to protect both Wyoming’s economy and Wyoming’s environment.” Gov. Freudenthal called the legislation a “groundbreaking” framework for carbon capture and sequestration
Earlier this year, Freudenthal told the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee that the Wyoming Legislature had an opportunity to lead the nation in regulating long-term carbon capture and sequestration.
The strange thing about this law, is that it takes the overriding principle of so-called “split-estates” and turn them on their heads. You see, when sub-surface mineral rights are not owned by the same party as owns the surface rights, this is called a split-estate. Split-estate land development has allowed the BLM to lease out sub-surface mineral reserves of oil and gas to the highest-bidding energy developers. Unfortunately for surface owners, access to precious minerals trumps virtually any other use, and there is little one can do to prevent the oil and gas underneath their land. When push comes to shove, there is often little regard for the surface owner’s rights.
This bill would essentially put sub-surface mineral development rights in the hands of the surface owners (presumably ranchers, farmers, oil and gas companies, etc.), who would then have the legal right to fill the cavernous subsurface voids with carbon from coal-fired power plants. My question is this, do we actually have the technology that tells us exactly where the carbon dioxide would go once it is pumped back into the ground well enough to determine the proper surface owner? There is something funny about this law and I don’t like the path it could take us down.