Geoscience Policy Monthly Review
june 2013

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natural resources

USGS releases assessment of US geologic CO2 storage potential

The USGS released the first-ever assessment of the geologic carbon sequestration storage capacity of the United States. The new estimate, 3000 metric gigatons of storage, is based on USGS assessments of the nation’s technically accessible storage resources, and is based on peer-reviewed methodology.

Ultimately, the USGS identified 36 viable basins for carbon storage, and determined that approximately 65 percent of the storage capacity is located in the Coastal Plains region of the southeastern United States. Basins were chosen based on depth, proximity to groundwater, and the presence of a sealing rock layer to prevent the injected carbon from escaping.

USGS Geologic Assessment Map

Map of the conterminous United States and Alaska showing 8 regions (separated by bold dashed lines), evaluated areas (bluish gray) that were not assessed, and 36 areas (pattern) that were assessed by the U.S. Geological Survey for carbon dioxide (CO2) storage. Resources in federally owned offshore areas were not assessed, and Hawaii was considered unlikely to have significant storage resources. Regions and study areas are plotted over a shaded-relief image showing higher elevations in brown and tan and lower elevations in green.

C2ES report on "Leveraging Natural Gas to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions"

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) released a report titled “Leveraging Natural Gas to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions”. This report examines the implications of expanded natural gas use in the economy, and recommends plans of action to maximize the climate benefits of natural gas.

The report estimates that natural gas will benefit the U.S. for the short- to mid-term by helping the U.S. work toward energy independence and gradually weaning the nation off petroleum and coal. However, the report notes that natural gas should not be a long-term solution because its use still produces green house gas emissions, such as methane, and that we should ensure that investment in low-carbon energies remains a priority.

In the power sector, the report concludes that rather than competing, natural gas and renewable energies should be viewed as complimentary. According to the report, natural gas’s ability to quickly scale-up or down its electricity production acts as a good buffer against the intermittency of renewables.

The report also contains site specific recommendations for the power, building, transportation, and manufacturing sectors, as well as distributed generation and infrastructure.

BLM reopens comment period for proposed commercial oil shale regulations

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that the comment period for the proposed rule to amend the BLM's commercial oil shale regulations has been reopened for 30 days. This rule would amend certain environmental protection requirements and issues about the royalty system for shale oil resources.

Several options are being considered for royalties, including an open comment period for each new lease sale, a sliding royalty rate based on market prices, and establishing an initial minimum royalty of 12.5% which could increase to a higher rate after the lease sale. 

Several parties requested the extension in order to review the proposed revisions and potential impacts.

Comments are due by July 15, 2013.

House Committee holds oversight hearing on hardrock mining

The House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a mining oversight hearing on June 13, 2013. The hearing focused on mining fees and royalties, the withdrawal of certain lands from new mining claims, and Good Samaritan legislation for the cleanup of abandoned mine lands (AMLs).

Committee members Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) highlighted the need for mining law reform. Witnesses Steve Moyer of Trout Unlimited and Lauren Pagel of Earthworks voiced their support for mining legislation such as the Fair Payment for Energy and Mineral Production on Public Lands Act (H.R. 3446) that would institute federal mining royalties and levy a fee on mining operations to pay for the cleanup of AMLs. However, Kris Hefton, Chief Operating Officer of Vane Minerals, declared that royalties could make mining cost-prohibitive.

Moyer and Harold Roberts, Chief Operating Officer of Energy Fuels Resources Corp., also emphasized the need for improved Good Samaritan legislation such as S. 1777 or H.R. 3203 to enable organizations to voluntarily remediate AML sites without incurring liability under environmental laws.

Opening statements, witness testimonies and an archived webcast of the hearing can be found on the committee’s website.