Bill to put 10-year moratorium on CCS projects on Lake Maurepas advances to House floor

BATON ROUGE — A bill proposed to stop all carbon sequestration projects on Lake Maurepas passed through a house committee last week.

The House Committee on Natural Resources approved Rep. William “Bill” Wheat’s HB 267 by a 9-5 vote following a lengthy meeting on carbon capture and storage (CCS) – a practice that has many people divided on both the local and state levels.

HB 267 would place a 10-year moratorium on all carbon capture and storage projects on or beneath Lake Maurepas and the Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area.

The bill now heads to the House floor scheduled for May 9.

Wheat posted a message on social media after the vote to thank everyone who went and supported the bill.

“This is a huge win in a long process to ensure the viability of our beloved lake and its estuaries,” he wrote.

In favor: Rhonda Gaye Butler (R-Ville Platte), R. Dewith Carrier (R-Oakdale), Timothy Kerner (R-Jefferson), Mandie Landry (D-New Orleans), Buddy Mincey, Jr. (R-Denham Springs), Neil Riser (R-Columbia), Troy Romero (R-Jennings), Rodney Schamerhorn (R-Hornbeck), William “Bill” Wheat, Jr. (R-Ponchatoula)

Opposed: Jean-Paul Coussan (R-Lafayette), Mack Cormier (D-Belle Chasse), Adrian Fisher (D-Monroe), Stephanie Hilferty (R-Metairie), Joseph Orgeron (R-Larose)

The House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment discussed multiple bills about carbon capture and storage during the nearly seven-hour meeting.

Carbon capture involves capturing emissions from industrial sites instead of releasing them into the atmosphere. The emissions are captured and transported to a hub where they are stored permanently in underground wells.

Carbon capture has been a hot debate topic in Livingston Parish, which is the site of two proposed carbon capture hubs. HB 267 would only affect the hub underneath Lake Maurepas. It is one of three areas the company looks to store CO2 involving the $4.5 billion blue hydrogen energy complex in Ascension Parish.

According to Air Products officials, CO2 from the plant would be injected in wells across Livingston, St. James, St. John the Baptist, and Tangipahoa parishes a mile underneath state land that includes Lake Maurepas. Air Products plans to have the plant operational by 2026.

The Livingston Parish Council passed a year-long moratorium on Class VI injection wells in September. Those wells are used to inject carbon dioxide into deep rock formations.

Wheat said during Tuesday’s meeting that the process involving introducing the carbon capture projects to the public was poorly executed.

“The folks in my area have been confused about this since the very first time we saw the barges out there pulling up cypress trees on the lake,” Wheat said during the meeting. “It’s been a total boondoggle of massive confusion. Unfortunately, my district and neighboring areas around have been forced into this discussion of a planned project that was at best poorly rolled out and hastily implemented.”

Wheat’s bill highlights Lake Maurepas’ “scenic beauty, delicate estuary, and spawning grounds for aquatic species,” as well as its use for recreation and commercial fisheries and the natural buffer against hurricane winds and storm surge.

Some industry leaders expressed Tuesday that Wheat’s bill, though focusing on one project, could affect others across the state. Opponents of Wheat’s bill also mention a $700 million capital investment in Caldwell Parish for a 171-acre renewable diesel plant that’ll utilize carbon capture – a project that the area has welcomed.

“We aren’t just talking about this one project,” said Lauren Hadden, Director of Energy and Environmental Quality for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. “This project will have a ripple effect on other projects.”

Following Tuesday’s vote, Wheat said it is a step in the right direction but there’s more work ahead.

“The journey through our state’s legislature has only just begun and there is hope,” he said. “We fought the good fight today!”

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