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Federal Control of Carbon Capture and Storage

September 2011

Citation: ELR 10796

Author: Arnold W. Reitze Jr.

The United States has economically recoverable coal reserves of about 261 billion tons, which is in excess of a 250-year supply based on 2009 consumption rates. However, in the near future, the use of coal may be legally restricted because of concerns over the effects of its combustion on atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. In response, the U.S. Department of Energy is making significant efforts to help develop and implement a commercial-scale carbon capture and storage program to limit emissions of carbon dioxide emitted from coal-burning electric power plants based on geologic carbon sequestration in deep underground formations. Many technical and legal problems must be resolved in order to have a viable carbon capture and storage program. The many legal issues that exist can be resolved, but whether carbon sequestration becomes a commercial reality will depend on reducing its costs or imposing legal requirements on coal-fired power plants that increase the cost of electricity so that carbon sequestration is an attractive option.

Arnold W. Reitze Jr. is Professor of Law, S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah, and member of the University of Utah’s Institute for Clean & Secure Energy; J.B. and Maurice Shapiro Professor Emeritus of Environmental Law, The George Washington University.

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