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The government may store carbon dioxide under the nation's forests

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Both big industries and the Biden administration are promoting a possible climate solution that involves trapping carbon dioxide from smokestacks and storing it underground. But lots of communities are pushing back, and now the U.S. Forest Service is stepping in with its own plan. Here's NPR's Julia Simon.

JULIA SIMON, BYLINE: To understand why the U.S. Forest Service is getting involved, you have to know about this proposed climate solution called carbon capture and storage.

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JENNIFER GRANHOLM: By capturing and storing carbon dioxide from polluting sources, we can make real progress in tackling the climate crisis.

SIMON: That's Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in an agency video. Some industries, like cement or gas power plants, emit a bunch of carbon dioxide that heats the planet. With this tech, the idea is to capture that pollution from smokestacks, inject it underground and store it. There are billions of dollars for this tech in recent climate legislation and direct investments from the Biden administration. Now the Forest Service is proposing changing a rule so this CO2 could be stored under the country's national forests and grasslands. But environmental groups and researchers have concerns. CO2 pollution will need to be transported via pipeline for storage, says June Sekera, a research fellow with Boston University.

JUNE SEKERA: To get the CO2 to the injection site in the midst of our national forests, they've got to build huge pipelines.

SIMON: Sekera says building those CO2 pipelines may require clearing a lot of trees, and there are concerns about pipeline safety. If a pipeline breaks, CO2 can displace oxygen and can be hazardous, says Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

VICTORIA BOGDAN TEJEDA: It's a deadly asphyxiate whether it leaks near a town or whether it leaks near a forest.

SIMON: Across the country, locals have been pushing back against proposed carbon dioxide pipelines in their communities. Last month, Navigator CO2 Ventures canceled a proposed multistate CO2 pipeline in the Midwest, citing unpredictable state regulatory processes. The Forest Service did not respond to NPR's questions about potentially allowing CO2 storage on national forests. Public comments on the proposed rule change are open until January 2.

Julia Simon, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Julia Simon
Julia Simon is the Climate Solutions reporter on NPR's Climate Desk. She covers the ways governments, businesses, scientists and everyday people are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. She also works to hold corporations, and others, accountable for greenwashing.