Balancing the SCALE: What the Passage of The SCALE Act Could Mean for Louisiana’s Energy Future

On July 14, 2021 a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources voted to advance the “Storing CO2 and Lowering Emissions Act” (SCALE Act), to be attached to the $550 billion dollar infrastructure bill, H.R. 3684, more commonly known as the “INVEST in America Act.”  Promoted as the largest carbon dioxide capture and storage legislative effort to date, the SCALE Act includes key policy pillars designed to drive carbon dioxide infrastructure deployment, including billions of dollars in demonstration projects to divert and store carbon dioxide.

Initially introduced in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in March 2021 by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the SCALE Act calls for substantially increased carbon capture and removal in an effort to achieve net-zero emissions through support for the build-out of carbon dioxide transport infrastructure and the commercialization of geologic carbon dioxide storage.  Specifically, the SCALE Act, if passed, promises to establish:

  • a Secure Geologic Storage Infrastructure Development Program in conjunction with the CarbonSAFE program to provide the Department of Energy (DOE) cost share for commercial carbon dioxide storage hubs;
  • increased funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for permitting Class VI carbon dioxide storage wells, and grants for states to establish their own Class VI permitting programs;
  • the Carbon Dioxide Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (CIFIA) program to finance shared carbon dioxide transport infrastructure through the provision of flexible, low-interest loans for carbon dioxide transport infrastructure projects and grants for initial excess capacity on new infrastructure to facilitate future growth;
  • grants for state and local governments to obtain carbon dioxide utilization products for infrastructure; and
  • projects, and support for state and local programs that create demand for materials, fuels, and other products made from captured carbon.

The SCALE Act comes at a time where multiple other countries and regions, such as the United Kingdom, Norway, Australia, and Canada have already committed billions to construct carbon dioxide transportation and storage infrastructure to decarbonize heavy industry.  The SCALE Act would provide the necessary federal support for carbon dioxide transport and storage infrastructure to get the United States back on track over the next decade by enabling infrastructure to achieve net-zero emissions, creating 13,000 jobs per year, and accelerating investment in the decarbonization of emission-intensive industries and carbon removal.

But how does the SCALE Act affect Louisiana?

According to SCALE Act sponsor, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), “[p]assing this bill through committee is great news for our Louisiana workers and our economy.” Specifically, the provisions regarding Hydrogen Hubs and Geologic Carbon Sequestration on the Outer Continental Shelf are “tailor made for Louisiana’s industry, existing infrastructure, and energy sector.”

Louisiana’s present industries and infrastructure are uniquely situated to take full advantage of multiple provisions within the SCALE Act.  Louisiana’s existing refining and petrochemical industries are capable of moving quickly on carbon capture deployment due to Louisiana’s sizable industrial base that currently produces relatively pure streams of carbon dioxide, and the availability of large-scale, high-capacity geologic storage options surrounding Louisiana.  Specifically, if passed, the SCALE Act allows the Department of Interior (DOI) to permit geologic carbon sequestration on the Outer Continental Shelf.  Geologic carbon sequestration is a method of securing carbon dioxide in deep geologic formations to prevent its release to the atmosphere and contribution to global warming as a greenhouse gas.  Permitting of geologic carbon sequestration on the Outer Continental Shelf would create multiple new industries in Louisiana, providing new job opportunities, in addition to ample carbon dioxide storage.

Interconnected carbon dioxide transport systems that collect carbon dioxide from multiple sources and deliver it to shared carbon dioxide storage “hubs” are the integral components of the infrastructure needed for the widespread carbon capture deployment described in the SCALE Act.  Pipelines are the dominant mode of carbon dioxide transportation, preferred over shipping and rail, which are feasible options in certain circumstances.  At present, Louisiana has the nation’s greatest density of industrial gas and petroleum pipelines.  Louisiana is capable of providing rights of way and built-in transportation expertise as the basis and support for the buildout of carbon dioxide pipeline infrastructure networks.  In conjunction with the SCALE Act provisions regarding Direct Air Capture Hubs for Carbon Removal, which authorize regional direct air capture hubs to aid in the capturing of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, Louisiana is positioned to excel in carbon removal and decarbonizations while both maintaining and expanding Louisiana’s existing industries and infrastructure.

The INVEST in America Act, the infrastructure bill that includes the SCALE Act, is slowly moving closer to passage in the U.S. Senate.  On August 8, 2021, a bipartisan group of 68 senators (50 Democrats, 18 Republicans) voted to limit debate on the INVEST Act.  On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the infrastructure bill.  However, the bill still faces challenges within the U.S. House of Representatives.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi reaffirmed that the House will not take up the infrastructure legislation until the Senate also passes the more sweeping economic package.  Although it is unseen when or if the infrastructure bill, and the included SCALE Act, will pass Congress, the benefits of the SCALE Act in Louisiana are clear.

As Senator Cassidy stated, “Louisiana is an energy powerhouse and this bill puts Louisiana in the center of our energy future.”

If you have the fortitude to read the full text of the SCALE Act, please follow this link:

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