Washington Adds Rules on CO2 Underground Injection

Washington is continuing to lead in the fight against global climate change by adopting the nation's first standards for underground injection of climate-changing carbon dioxide, according to a June 30 press release.

In addition, the Washington Department of Ecology has adopted a rule that sets an emissions performance standard for power plants that emit greenhouse gases (GHG). Fossil-fuel fired power plants are significant sources of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and increases global temperatures. Increased temperatures contribute to climate change.

The state's Water Quality Program amended Chapter 173-218 WAC to allow the injection of carbon dioxide into deep rock formations, a process known as geologic sequestration. The rules require the protection of existing water quality in aquifers used for irrigation and drinking water.

"This technology has the potential to reduce the release of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants which will limit the impacts of global climate change. We are also one of only two states with an emissions performance standard, which will help ensure that electricity consumed in Washington does not come from dirty coal," said Janice Adair, special assistant to Department of Ecology Director Jay Manning.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intends to release a first draft of federal sequestration standards this summer, with final adoption scheduled for 2010.

The state's Air Quality Program developed a rule for power plants (less than 350 megawatts), effective July 19. The program amended Chapter 173-407 WAC to adopt the GHG emissions performance standard for baseload electric generation of 1,100 pounds per megawatt-hour that was included in the legislation. The standard is equivalent to the emissions from a natural gas power plant. It also establishes criteria to implement and enforce the emissions performance standard. Rule requirements include:

*New baseload electric generation that starts operating after June 30 in Washington must comply with the GHGs emissions performance standard.

*All long-term financial commitments entered into by electric utilities on or after July 1 must comply with the emissions performance standard.

*Emissions that are permanently sequestered are not counted when determining if a generating facility meets the emissions performance standard.

The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council adopted rules for large power plants under its jurisdiction (350 megawatts or greater), which establish similar requirements for these power plants. These take effect July 25.

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