Citing safety concerns, groups seek moratorium on new CO2 pipelines

By Dana Drugmand

Environmental and public health advocates are calling on President Joe Biden to issue a moratorium on new carbon dioxide pipelines, citing “serious safety concerns” and significant gaps in current federal safety regulations.

The effort comes as the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) holds a public meeting in Iowa to gather stakeholder input as it prepares to update its safety regulations governing CO2 transport by pipeline.

“A moratorium on dangerous and underregulated carbon dioxide pipelines is essential to protect communities and the environment,” Maggie Coulter, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said in a statement.

In a letter to President Biden released on Tuesday, more than 150 organizations urged the president to issue an executive order halting federal permits for CO2 pipelines while insisting that states hold off on granting state permits for these pipelines until PHMSA completes its updated regulations.

Last year PHMSA announced it would be initiating a new rulemaking on CO2 pipeline safety in response to a pipeline rupture in Satartia, Mississippi in February 2020 that released a large plume of highly pressurized CO2, sending nearly 50 people to the hospital and causing around 300 people to be evacuated. The letter to President Biden references the disaster, warning “our communities face the risk of much larger and more devastating ruptures” in the absence of updated federal regulations.

The president’s negotiated deal with congressional Republicans to raise the debt ceiling could also weaken federal environmental reviews and reduce public input on energy-related infrastructure and other development projects including CO2 pipelines, environmental advocacy groups say.