SPRINGFIELD - Today, the Illinois State Senate passed the Safety and Aid for the Environment in Carbon Capture and Sequestration Act (SB1289) after passage in the State House and weeks of intense negotiations. The bill includes some of the strongest carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) protections in the nation, which are urgently needed given that multiple corporations are currently targeting Illinois for carbon waste disposal.

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Due to the recent influx of federal tax incentives, CCS projects have already been proposed across the state despite a woeful lack of state and federal regulations. Companies have proposed injecting CO2 underground through 22 wells in six Illinois counties and CO2 pipelines have been proposed in 23 counties. The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition (ICJC) and Coalition to Stop CO2 Pipelines engaged with stakeholders to draft the CCS protections bill to ensure these projects do not move forward without basic safety and environmental protections.

“Illinois is a national leader on climate and energy policy, and SB1289 ensures that if companies are going to use CCS as a climate mitigation strategy, they will need to meet some of the strongest standards in the nation,” said Representative Ann Williams, who is the lead sponsor of SB1289. “There are many risks associated with capturing, transporting, and injecting fossil fuel pollution into the earth, and the CCS protections bill ensures critical guardrails are in place to protect Illinois taxpayers, landowners and our environment.”

The bill includes “do no harm” mandates for polluting facilities that attempt to capture carbon.

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“Frontline environmental justice communities have long fought against CCS projects because they are false solutions to the climate crisis and risk exacerbating the already disproportionate pollution burdens on our communities,” said Juliana Pino, Policy Director for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. “This legislation secures a critical, enforceable requirement that facility operators not increase dangerous air and climate pollution as a result of carbon capture projects. It also provides a critical pause on pipeline projects to allow more time for Federal safety standards to be finalized.”

The CCS protections bill also places a two-year moratorium on CO2 pipelines or until the federal Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) finalizes long-awaited safety and oversight rules. The federal government launched this rulemaking process after a 2020 CO2 pipeline failure in Mississippi sent 45 people to the hospital and rendered emergency responders unable to operate their vehicles. SB1289 also requires pipeline operators to use more enhanced modeling for Illinois’ emergency planning and first responders, which could have reduced the devastation in the pipeline disaster in Mississippi. Additionally, corporations will pay for the costs needed to enhance emergency preparedness.

“For the past two and a half years, landowners, farmers and environmental advocates across the state have sounded the alarm that CO2 pipelines and carbon storage put our communities’ health, land and water in grave danger,” said Pam Richart, co-founder of the Coalition to Stop CO2 Pipelines. “The moratorium on CO2 pipelines and the mandate that pipeline operators pay for and conduct enhanced modeling for emergency planning and first responders are critical steps to better protect Illinois from potential pipeline ruptures. However, more protections are needed and our work before the Illinois Commerce Commission will continue to ensure that places where we live, work, and play are protected from dangerous carbon pipelines.”

The CCS protections bill also includes safeguards for sequestration sites, where industry will attempt to store CO2 underground in carbon injection wells. Operators will be held to standards above and beyond U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements to protect underground water resources and the bill bans the use of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.

“This bill begins to address some of the greatest threats from CCS and offers nearby communities concerned about potentially deadly leaks and disasters critical protections to guard against and address problems,” said Jenny Cassel, Senior Attorney at Earthjustice. “While I am profoundly disappointed that industry did not agree to our recommendation to ban injection through the Mahomet and other sole-source aquifers, the bill provides far more protections than are in place today.”

“While there are certainly difficult compromises in SB1289, the protections secured in the bill are a significant victory and should be put in place immediately,” said Illinois Environmental Council executive director Jen Walling. “We are committed to the ongoing work needed to protect our most precious drinking water sources and to increase landowner protections through future legislation. We are grateful for the Office of Governor Pritzker for their efforts to achieve strong environmental protection in this bill.”

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