If carbon in the atmosphere is a problem, and that atmospheric carbon resulted from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, then a simple solution is to remove the carbon from the atmosphere and to put it back into the ground via underground injection wells. Essentially, this carbon capture and carbon sequestration theory puts the carbon back where it originated. There are many technical hurdles with this concept, but one of them is the regulation of underground injection wells.
Injecting anything into the ground raises concerns about impacts on drinking water. Under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the federal Environmental protection Agency ("EPA") administers an Underground Injection Control program that regulates various types of underground injection wells. The EPA categorizes different types of underground injection wells by assigning them to different "Classes".
"Class VI" wells are wells that are used for geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide. This is associated with the deposit of atmospheric carbon back into the ground. Currently, the EPA has "primacy" to regulate "Class VI" wells in every state except Wyoming and North Dakota. That means that companies interested in drilling and using underground injection wells in Pennsylvania must presently engage in a permitting process with the federal government.
However, regulation of underground injection wells in Pennsylvania may be subject to change. In March 2023, it was reported that Pennsylvania would be applying to the EPA for primacy to regulate Class VI underground injection wells for carbon sequestration. The EPA divides the process for states to gain "primacy" for regulating underground injection wells into four phases:
Phase I: pre-application activities
Phase II: completeness review and determination
Phase III: application evaluation
Phase IV: rulemaking and codification
This process can take years and states that may be host to Class VI wells, like Pennsylvania are considering how to obtain primacy for their operation. Presently there are no applications for Class VI wells in Pennsylvania. Of course, this only addresses the regulatory side of Class VI underground injection wells. It is not related to ownership of the geologic formations targeted for injection and carbon sequestration. But, progress toward regulatory primacy over Class VI wells in Pennsylvania potentially signals the advancement towards the potential for underground injection wells for carbon sequestration in the Commonwealth.
If a company approaches you for an agreement to drill an underground injection well for carbon sequestration, or to conduct an investigation about the feasibility of a carbon sequestration underground injection well on your property, contact attorney Brendan O’Donnell at 412-288-2226 or email@example.com.
Oil and gas development can present unique and complex issues that can be intimidating and challenging. At Houston Harbaugh, P.C., our oil and gas practice is dedicated to protecting the interests of landowners and royalty owners. From new lease negotiations to title disputes to royalty litigation, we can help. Whether you have two acres in Washington County or 5,000 acres in Lycoming County, our dedication and commitment remains the same.
We Represent Landowners in All Aspects of Oil and Gas Law
The oil and gas attorneys at Houston Harbaugh have broad experience in a wide array of oil and gas matters, and they have made it their mission to protect and preserve the landowner’s interests in matters that include:
- New lease negotiations
- Pipeline right-of-way negotiations
- Surface access agreements
- Royalty audits
- Tax and estate planning
- Lease expiration claims
- Curative title litigation
- Water contamination claims
Robert Burnett - Practice Chair
Robert’s practice is exclusively devoted to the representation of landowners and royalty owners in oil and gas matters. Robert is the Chair of the Houston Harbaugh’s Oil & Gas Practice Group and represents landowners and royalty owners in a wide array of oil and gas matters throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Robert assists landowners and royalty owners in the negotiation of new oil and gas leases as well as modifications to existing leases. Robert also negotiates surface use agreements and pipeline right-of-way agreements on behalf of landowners. Robert also advises and counsels clients on complex lease development and expiration issues, including the impact and effect of delay rental and shut-in clauses, as well as the implied covenants to develop and market oil and gas. Robert also represents landowners and royalty owners in disputes arising out of the calculation of production royalties and the deduction of post-production costs. Robert also assists landowners with oil and gas title issues and develops strategies to resolve and cure such title deficiencies. Robert also advises clients on the interplay between oil and gas leases and solar leases and assists clients throughout Pennsylvania in negotiating solar leases.
Brendan A. O'Donnell
Brendan O’Donnell is a highly qualified and experienced attorney in the Oil and Gas Law practice. He also practices in our Environmental and Energy Practice. Brendan represents landowners and royalty owners in a wide variety of matters, including litigation and trial work, and in the preparation and negotiation of:
- Pipeline right of way agreements
- Surface use agreements
- Oil, gas and mineral conveyances