Energy Excursions

Regulatory Rules

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Codifies CO2 Storage Wells

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates underground injection of fluids for storage or disposal under its Underground Injection Control (UIC) program. The UIC program classifies injection wells  based on the type of fluid that will be injected. Prior to 2010 the UIC program regulated five classes of wells: Class I, II, III, IV and V.

After working with the DOE initiative for several years, the EPA proposed new regulatory requirements for geologic storage of CO2 under the Safe Drinking Water Act. On December 10, 2010 EPA officially established a new well class, Class VI, that would allow for specific regulatory control of CO2 storage well operations.1EPA. (n.d.). EPA Proposes New Requirements for Geologic Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-07/documents/fs_uic_co2_proposedrule.pdf2EPA. (2010). Federal requirements under the Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program for Carbon Dioxide (CO 2) Geologic Sequestration (GS) Wells Final Rule. Fed. Regist., 45(237), 77230-77303. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/uic/federal-requirements-under-underground-injection-control-uic-program-carbon-dioxide-co2-geologic Two Class VI wells, both in Illinois, were the first permitted by EPA in the United States.3North Dakota Legislative Council staff for the Natural Resources Committee. (2011, September). Primacy agreements with the Environmental Protection Agency – background memorandum. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from http://library.nd.gov/statedocs/LegislativeCouncil/1391040100020111026.pdf4EPA. (n.d.). What is UIC primary enforcement responsibility (primacy)? U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/uic/primary-enforcement-authority-underground-injection-control-program

Regulatory Primacy

The EPA is tasked by law to develop and implement environmental protective regulation in all U.S. states, territories and tribal nations. Generally, this implementation is carried out with federal funding by one of EPA’s field offices. However, states, territories and tribes can apply for primary enforcement responsibility, or primacy, from the agency. This delegates the responsibility for enforcement to the state or other local level. EPA’s approval is based on a legal and technical review of the application for primacy.

The EPA benefits from primacy by freeing up their limited resources to focus on the most critical environmental problems, while the recipient of primacy benefits by tailoring the regulatory enforcement protocols to their specific ecological or geological situation. Federal and state governments sometimes disagree on best practices for implementing regulations, and primacy awards more local control over these processes, at the cost of using state funds to exercise that control.5North Dakota Legislative Council staff for the Natural Resources Committee. (2011, September). Primacy agreements with the Environmental Protection Agency – background memorandum. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from http://library.nd.gov/statedocs/LegislativeCouncil/1391040100020111026.pdf6EPA. (n.d.). What is UIC primary enforcement responsibility (primacy)? U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/uic/primary-enforcement-authority-underground-injection-control-program

Primacy does not change the actual letter of the regulatory law that entities must follow, merely the agency responsible for enforcing the law. If the EPA determines that a state regulatory program is inadequate, they can resume all or a portion of the regulatory responsibility. Also, states, territories and tribes must apply for primacy separately in different regulatory areas, including well classes.

In regard to regulating storage wells, what is the best definition of “primacy?” 

Delegates enforcement responsibility to the state or local level upon approval of the EPA

Correct.

Enforcement of storage wells is implemented only under the EPA

Incorrect. 

The EPA can delegate enforcement to the state and local level too. 

To construct a storage well you must first be granted primacy, allowing you to drill the well

Incorrect. 

Primacy deals with the regulatory agency that will have oversight authority for the storage well. 

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