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Legislation paves way for more pipelines

By Phreddy Wischusen

The Michigan Citizen

On April 1, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed four bills into law, which allow and incentivize natural gas and oil companies to build more pipelines, ostensibly to capture carbon dioxide emissions from existing and natural gas wells. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the leading cause of global climate change, occur naturally during the process of extracting fossil fuels. The four laws provide for tax incentives to resource companies who capture that CO2 and use it either to sell commercially — for use in the manufacture of carbonated beverages — or in a process called enhanced oil recovery.

The EOR process pumps CO2 into previously tapped wells in order to extract the final remnants of fossil fuels from the well. A pipeline infrastructure is necessary to transport the captured CO2, supporters say.

Thomas Stallworth

Thomas Stallworth

“The alternative to the sequestration of CO2 is emissions into the atmosphere. The bill provides a viable alternative to capture that CO2 and store in wells underground,” says State Rep. Thomas Stallworth, D-Detroit, who introduced one of the four bills to the legislature. “It’s a much more environmentally friendly process.”

Currently, Stallworth says, none of Michigan’s resource extraction companies are capturing their CO2 emissions. Stallworth told the Michigan Citizen he favored incentivizing the companies to capture the emissions rather than forcing them to do it through strict regulation.

Strict regulation “would put Michigan at a competitive disadvantage for business and the jobs we desperately need. Such regulation requirements would be more effective if required at the federal level to ensure a level playing field for all states,” he said.

Mike Berkowitz, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, says the same environmental risks associated with pipelines that carry tar sands oil can occur with CO2 and recovered gas pipelines.

Although the stated intent of the new legislation encourages the capture of CO2 emissions and EOR, the wording of the law gives the same powers of eminent domain to companies that want to construct new oil and natural gas pipelines as it does to those constructing CO2 pipelines. This could potentially allow for the expansion of hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking,” in the state, which has been shown to cause earthquakes and pollute groundwater. Additionally, more wells mean more CO2 emissions.

The UN recently released a report saying the effects of global warming would “severe, pervasive and irreversible,” and would affect everyone on the planet, but would have a disproportionately negative affect on the global poor. Detroit is the poorest city in America with a population of 250,000 or more, according to U.S. Census data.

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