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Both emissions reductions and removal of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere are essential if we hope to minimize the damage caused by climate change and globally reduce our net emissions of greenhouse gasses to zero. Some CO2 removal techniques, like “direct air capture” that uses chemical and electrochemical processes to capture atmospheric CO2 at relatively low concentrations, generate a stream of captured CO2 that is then injected into underground rock formations referred to as “geologic storage.” CO2 pipelines represent the most efficient way to transport high volumes of captured CO2 to geologic storage locations. However, while 5,000 miles of CO2 pipeline have already been constructed across the South and Midwest United States, the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) most recent estimates suggest that between 30,000 and 96,000 miles of CO2 pipelines will be needed to support the United States’ 2050 net-zero emissions goal.

The Biden Administration has strongly supported the adoption of carbon removal and storage technologies, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 directed DOE to fund four regional “direct air capture hubs” (DAC Hubs) — networks that connect direct air capture projects with sequestration facilities and commercial users of captured CO2. However, the CO2 pipelines that will be needed to support DAC Hubs remain subject to erratic regulation. Few of the federal legal frameworks governing pipeline infrastructure were designed with CO2 pipelines in mind, and most regulation of CO2 pipeline siting, development, and operation is conducted at the state level.

This paper assesses the legal framework for developing CO2 pipelines to support DAC Hub projects. The analysis in this paper focuses on privately owned and developed CO2 pipelines, rather than assessing the feasibility of government agencies (state or federal) constructing and operating pipelines of their own. Through this lens, this paper offers a detailed review of permitting and regulatory regimes in ten states distributed across the continental United States that were identified as potential candidates for DAC Hubs: Alabama, Arizona, California, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming. Building from this regulatory review, this paper identifies four key barriers to the wide-scale rapid development of CO2 pipelines necessary to support a comprehensive system of national DAC Hubs, and suggests four key recommendations for improving the state and federal frameworks surrounding CO2 pipelines.


Construction Law | Energy and Utilities Law | Environmental Law | Law