February 12, 2014

Exclusion for Carbon Dioxide Streams During Geologic Sequestration Activities

On January 3, 2014 [79 FR 350], EPA excluded waste carbon dioxide (CO2) streams injected underground for geologic sequestration from the definition of hazardous waste. Generators and well owners/operators must meet the following conditions to claim the new exclusion: these CO2 streams must be 1) captured from emission sources (e.g., power plants or other industrial sources), 2) transported via DOT-regulated (or state equivalently-regulated) pipelines or vehicles, and 3) injected into SDWA Class VI wells for purposes of geologic sequestration.

Generators of these excluded CO2 streams and Class VI well owners/operators must separately certify no hazardous wastes have been mixed, or otherwise co-injected, with the CO2 stream. These certifications must be updated annually, kept onsite for three years, and be accessible on the facilities’ publicly-available websites.

EPA noted in the rule’s preamble that the exclusion does not affect the regulatory status of CO2 streams injected into wells other than SDWA Class VI wells for geologic sequestration. The agency specifically noted, “should CO2 be used for its intended purpose as it is injected into UIC Class II wells for the purpose of [enhanced oil or gas recovery]; it is EPA’s expectation that such an injection process would not generally be a waste management activity.” [79 FR 355]

The exclusion has been added as a new section, §261.4(h), effective March 4, 2014 at the federal level. Because this exclusion makes the federal program less stringent, states are not required to adopt the new provision (although EPA encourages all states to do so). “EPA notes that in situations involving the interstate transportation of conditionally-excluded waste, the exclusion must be authorized in the state where the waste is generated, any states through which the waste passes, and the state where the UIC Class VI injection well is located, in order for that conditionally-excluded waste to be managed as excluded from subtitle C from point of generation to injection in a UIC Class VI well. A state that has not adopted the conditional exclusion may impose state requirements, including the uniform hazardous waste manifest requirement (where applicable) if characteristically-hazardous CO2 streams are being transported through that state.” [79 FR 360]


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This document addresses issues of a general nature related to the federal RCRA regulations. Persons evaluating specific circumstances dealing with the RCRA regulations should review state and local laws and regulations, which may be more stringent than federal requirements. In addition, the assistance of a qualified professional should be enlisted to address any site-specific circumstances.