Livingston Parish officials tell lawmakers to scrap carbon capture project

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(The Center Square) — The first meeting of a legislative task force studying local impacts of carbon capture projects featured strong resistance from parish government officials and others.

“There’s less than 20% of people in my parish who want carbon capture, yet they have no say-so is what they feel like,” Livingston County Parish President-elect Randy Delatte told the Task Force on Local Impacts of Carbon Capture and Sequestration on Monday.

“We want the people to decide if carbon capture is a good thing for them or not,” he said. “Carbon capture was forced on the people of Livingston Parish and they’re very upset about it.”

Delatte’s comments reference what industrial gas manufacturer Air Products describes as “the world’s largest permanent carbon dioxide sequestration endeavor to date” currently under construction in Lake Maurepas, a project approved by the state that’s boosted in part by millions in taxpayer-funded business incentives.

Air Products plans to produce massive amounts of blue hydrogen and sequester carbon dioxide generated in the manufacturing process in a geologic pore space a mile under Lake Maurepas, a brackish estuarine body of water connected to Lake Pontchartrain by the Pass Manchac waterway.

The project and others underway align with climate goals to reduce carbon dioxide promoted by the Biden administration and Gov. John Bel Edwards. Edwards has said carbon capture and sequestration is “important to Louisiana’s efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions” to zero by 2050, “while maintaining jobs and growing our manufacturing base.”

The task force stems from Senate Resolution 179 approved in the recent legislative session “to study and propose recommendations regarding the impact of carbon capture and sequestration projects across the state,” and produce a report to the legislature by Feb. 15.

The task force is comprised of lawmakers, the attorney general or designee, and the director of the Louisiana Mineral Law Institute. Members on Monday discussed a timeline for meetings over the coming months that are required by the resolution to include input from state and local governments, landowners, citizens, academic and research institutions, industry and utilities.

The task force plans to hold at least three meetings, the first with citizens and landowners, the second with industry and utilities, and a third to hear from state and local government and academics.

Delatte and others who testified on Monday highlighted numerous issues with carbon sequestration that centered mostly on the Lake Maurepas project, from failure to test drinking wells as required, to overzealous security on the lake interfering with locals who trap, fish and recreate on the water.

“We’re not here fighting carbon capture in the state, we’re here fighting carbon capture in Lake Maurepas. That’s our home,” said Bill Whittington, founder of the nonprofit Lake Maurepas Preservation Society. “We swim there. We don’t want to be swimming with 19 wells and a spider web of pipelines running through it.”

Whittington noted the project requires drilling through aquifers and raised concerns about carbon dioxide leaking into drinking water. He was among multiple folks who pointed to the devastating consequences of a carbon dioxide pipeline rupture in Satartia, Mississippi that required evacuation, sent hundreds to the hospital, and hobbled emergency response by rendering vehicles inoperable.

“The effects of CO2 are catastrophic if you get a leak,” he said. “The risks of this project outweigh any possibilities.”

Others who testified included the Sierra Club Delta Chapter, and local government officials, all of whom opposed the Air Products project.

“I have not heard one person in my parish say they are for this,” Livingston Parish councilwoman Erin Sandifur said. “We don’t want this in our lake, we don’t want this on our land.”

Legislation during the 2023 session featured several bills on carbon capture, from approved legislation to expand profits to local governments and install stronger oversight to failed bills to block the Lake Maurepas project and require local approval for such projects.

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