Breaking the Cycle

Greenwashing and the False Promises of CCS and LNG

Episode Summary

In our eighth episode of Breaking the Cycle, we explore how polluting industries perpetuate disinformation about their projects and products. To help explain greenwashing and how it relates to carbon capture and storage, we talked with Bekah Hinojosa with Sierra Club and Jade Woods of the Center on International Environmental Law.

Episode Notes

Connect with our guests:

Episode Transcription

Courtney Naquin: Hey, y’all. It’s Courtney Naquin, your host for Breaking the Cycle. I want to confess something to y’all: sometimes it is difficult for me to understand what is and what isn’t environmentally friendly. There’s a lot of opinions and information and an awful lot of disinformation on what are good climate solutions. From carbon credits to municipal recycling programs to electric vehicles, I’ve learned that a lot of what I was once taught to be environmental goods and services have turned out to be polluting industry greenwashing schemes. And I want to unpack what the term greenwashing actually means real quick. 

Greenwashing is a PR marketing tactic in which companies deceive consumers into believing that their products are environmentally friendly, or are even good for the environment when they actually aren’t. This can involve something as simple as branding with green or earth tone color palettes or using words like green or clean or natural, to something grandiose like using misleading or incorrect information to promote their goods or products. Corporations use greenwashing as a way to create a false impression that polluting industries and the extractive economy will provide a safe, healthy, and sustainable environment and future for us when, in reality, greenwashing is used to prevent us from really changing  the status quo and getting to the root causes of climate change and environmental damage.

Let me give you a real quick example. In the mid 1980s, the oil and gas company Chevron commissioned a series of pricey TV and print ads called the “People Do” campaign to promote their environmental commitment. Meanwhile, Chevron was actively violating the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, as well as spilling oil into wildlife refuges, and that’s just in the 1980s. And Chevron is far from the only polluting corporation to have created many, many greenwashing campaigns over the last several decades. In fact, greenwashing is really rampant even today. 

And we see that exactly happening with LNG companies, you know, liquified natural gas, which is actually just fracked gas, or methane gas. 

And now LNG companies are hinging their image and business plans onto a major greenwashing project that’s become even more popular over the past few years, which is CCS, or carbon capture and storage, or sometimes called carbon capture and sequestration. CCS, while to many people it sounds like a Hail Mary sort of solution to all of our problems, it captures carbon from the atmosphere and stores it underground or is used for a different purpose and it seems like oh this is it, we found it. But in fact, it’s not only a false solution, it would make climate change and environmental damages even worse. 

So, today I want to invite you to listen to this episode, which features interviews with two really incredible and smart people who are working to stop LNG and CCS projects across the Gulf Coast. And to also help us understand how these companies are using greenwashing schemes to tap into public values and exploit them, to have us believe in their false promises. 

Our first guest is a coworker and a friend of mine, Bekah Hinojosa, who is the Gulf Coast campaign rep for Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. Bekah has been fighting proposed LNG export terminals in her community of Brownsville, Texas, for years and is now challenging the industry’s new narrative that CCS will make fracked gas a low carbon alternative. And our second guest is Jade Woods, a campaigner with the Center on International Environmental Law [CIEL], working to stop CCS in Louisiana. Jade is a part of a broad coalition of people and community organizations that have been fighting the Louisiana state government and stopping their efforts to allow industry to use their coastal communities as a dumping ground for CCS projects.


Courtney Naquin: Welcome Bekah, thank you so much for joining us today. I’ve had the pleasure of working with you for a couple years now, and I know that you work in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, and that you’ve been organizing against fracked gas exports for nearly a decade, among many other things including, now, carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS. And before we get into the details of the local extractive industry projects and greenwashing in your area, I would like to ask if you can spend a couple of minutes and tell us about what the Rio Grande Valley is like, and what's it like to organize there, and who in the community do you work with?

Rebekah Hinojosa: Oh my gosh, don't remind me that it's been nearly a decade. So um, yeah, I mean, I'm, I'm born and raised in the RGV, in the Rio Grande Valley. I live in Brownsville, which, you know, the original people of this region are the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. And, I work really closely with the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe and you know, local residents that have been speaking out about a number of injustices so, you know, LNG, also border wall, border militarization. You know, the injustice of detention centers. For folks who aren't familiar with RGV, I mean, we're a community that's along the US Mexico border and along the Gulf Coast. We're on the frontlines of a lot of different injustices. We’re along the frontlines of border militarization. Because we're along the Gulf Coast, we face routine climate change disasters. 

And now, you know, we're also on the frontlines of the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, which has just been, you know, dominating the Gulf Coast and continues to stretch, try to stretch downward, south into our community. And, the RGB’s, unfortunately, in the news for a lot of terrible things, but our people here, you know, Brown folks, Native folks, Latinx folks, that have a really, you know, long history of families here who care very deeply about, you know, their families.

Courtney Naquin: Sweet. Thank you for, for that context. To expand a little on that question, can you talk just a little about how the local community has been responding?

Rebekah Hinojosa: So I've been working primarily with residents in Cameron County that are concerned or opposed to LNG. And those residents will speak up to their elected officials, the people in power, and pressure them to do the right thing, and reject either resolutions or letters or support for LNG. So that's what it looked like with the school district last year. We found out just a few days before a school board meeting, that they were planning to vote on a tax subsidy for an LNG facility here, and with just a few days' notice, reached out to folks in the community. You know, they were able to send, pretty much, angry letters in English and Spanish to the school board reps and let them know that they won't, you know, won't allow them to vote yes, that they're going to show up to the meeting. And that if they do try to vote in favor that you know this there's a long list of atrocities that would come from LNG.

Courtney Naquin: Right on Thank you. And then I was hoping that maybe you could also talk very briefly about the success that you had though, with Kent getting Annova LNG canceled. That's one that doesn't get to come up that often because fortunately, it no longer exists. Can you talk about how that came to happen?

Rebekah Hinojosa: Yeah, I mean, at one point, there were five LNG terminals proposed for the port of Brownsville in our community, and now we're down to two projects. And the most recent project that scrapped their plans is Annova LNG. So Annova LNG just a few years ago announced that they're not moving forward. And they claim it's because of the terrible market for gas, which is part of why they weren't unable to get contracts, customers of the gas, but it was also because of community opposition. So, community members here were able to pressure the school district to reject the tax subsidy for Annova LNG. And we were in the middle of a lawsuit with Annova LNG around endangered species and the fact that these LNG facilities, particularly in Annova would destroy ocelot habitat. Which, you know, they're like 50 or less ocelots in the RGV. So we were in the middle, in the middle of that lawsuit, it was very active. And then immediately Annova just announced a cancellation of their project. As a result of, you know, years and years of community members working together and doing everything they can to try to stop Annova LNG.

Courtney Naquin: Now though, there's still two major LNG projects in the works, Texas LNG and Rio Grande LNG. So can you also explain a little bit more about Texas LNG, what's been going on with Rio Grande LNG, and then also how have these companies been greenwashing fracked gas? How has the regional government politics, or even state or nationally, how have they been also supporting LNG that uses greenwashing language to support it? And how has that, specifically greenwashing, how has it impacted local public knowledge or opinion on the LNG build out?

Rebekah Hinojosa: So, we're still actively fighting two other LNG facilities. Those are Texas LNG, Rio Grande LNG, and the pipelines they plan to build like the Rio Bravo pipeline. Now Rio Grande LNG has plans to try to build a carbon capture storage facility. And the reason why Rio Grande LNG is making a big effort to greenwash their image is because, a few years ago, a French company called ENGIE walked away from a contract with them. And part of it was because they had pressure from the French government. The French government claims that they were concerned about, you know, all the methane emissions and pollution from the Permian Basin. For a moment there, Rio Grande LNG had lost a contract because of dangerous climate emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, from the Permian Basin. For a few years, Rio Grande LNG started making all kinds of ridiculous claims, like they would monitor emissions from the drill site or that they would try to source reasonably responsible gas, which is just a sham. I mean, there's no way to make fracking environmental. It's inherently destructive and dangerous and polluting. You know, it causes earthquakes.

There's terrible public health impacts. After Rio Grande LNG, you know, put out all this press, press releases and publicity about greenwashing, publicity about climate change, and monitoring emissions, then they went back to this French company ENGIE and ENGIE signed a contract with them. Part of this carbon capture and greenwashing is just a PR scheme. It's a way for them, the LNG companies, to try to peddle gas, to get more customers, or to try to get financial investors. And we've been, the community has been doing work to fight back against Rio Grande LNG’s CCS carbon capture storage facility. 

We've done things like we pressured Cameron County not to support the CCS project. We've also been sending comments to FERC. We've been meeting with investors and banks to educate them about the greenwashing scam that Rio Grande LNG is pushing, and we've been talking to community members and doing public education about carbon capture, and why it's a sham. And, you know, recently there was a news article from the local newspaper, where they quoted the city manager for Port Isabel, and the city manager for Port Isabel straight up called carbon capture greenwashing.

So public education here is, you know, a real part of the strategy. The reality is that LNG and carbon capture is just really strange science and engineering, and I wouldn't expect anyone to automatically know what that is. But there are ways we can really boil it down and simplify what these projects are and very clearly explain what the harms are.

But digging a little deeper into what Rio Grande LNG’s carbon capture proposal is, they want to store carbon that they capture from the LNG facility into the ground. And they've shared no plans for how they plan to do this. And the reality is, it's like an untested and unproven technology for LNG. And they've even, um, the company that they've employed or partnered with to try to build the CCS storage facility is called Mitsubishi, and Mitsubishi actually tried to build carbon capture storage for a coal plant, and that failed. So it failed. It was bad technology. It was too expensive. And it's even more experimental and unproven for LNG.

And the truth is, is that capturing some carbon from the plant is just a small percentage of all of the overall emissions that would come out of Rio Grande LNG. It doesn't include the fracking emissions. It doesn't do anything to address other public health impacts, things like volatile organic compounds or particulate matter that come out of the facility. It's just a PR scheme that would have its own type of destruction to the community because it's more infrastructure, more infrastructure that the community doesn't want.

Courtney Naquin: Right, right. And I know that one of the things that you've talked about in the past was how CCS projects tend to be very like water intensive. And that could potentially be pretty damaging to the Rio Grande Valley and Texas as a whole because Texas faces lots of water shortages and droughts pretty frequently.

Rebekah Hinojosa: That’s the other problem with CCS is it uses a ton of water. And we have been in a drought. Cameron County in the RGV has been in a drought for a while now. We were in danger of a severe, extremely severe drought. The elected officials here did have to declare a disaster declaration because of our drought. The local public utility even put out notices that the public had to conserve water. So I mean, absolutely, like carbon capture would just steal resources from our communities that need the water. 

Courtney Naquin: Yeah, that's a huge issue. 


Courtney Naquin: I feel like I can't have an interview with you without asking about SpaceX and how it has started to gentrify the area and, for those who are unfamiliar, SpaceX is the South African multi-billionaire Elon Musk's space station that's located on Boca Chica Beach, which is in South Texas.

And there has, from what I understand, a lot of pro SpaceX propaganda that promises progress and jobs in the area, which is, you know, not really unlike greenwashing. But I was hoping that you could share a bit about SpaceX's political and environmental impact on the local community and can you talk about how this project is being promoted and received in the Rio Grande Valley?

Rebekah Hinojosa: Yeah, SpaceX is actively lobbying elected officials. There are local politicians here that use their social media, almost act like social media influencers for SpaceX. You know, they use their official social media platforms to promote SpaceX to you know, they've even, you know, gotten the school district to dress kids up and child days outfits and go dance outside the SpaceX facility. They've also submitted their own letters to the government for SpaceX. A lot of politicians here, Democrats and Republicans, are actively shilling for SpaceX or promoting SpaceX.

You know, years ago when SpaceX was first proposed, there was a law that prevented Texas from closing the beaches. And the state, former state rep here, René Olivera, actually pushed a bill to allow SpaceX to close the beach, very often for SpaceX operations. That's just a really big example of how politicians here have gone out of their way to push SpaceX into our community which, we're seeing all different, all different kinds of impacts. There's safety risk from the constant explosions because of SpaceX rocket testing and rocket launchers.

Last year, there was a really big explosion, they burned dozens and dozens of acres of wildlife refuge and that was just a test. And, you know, that explosion was so loud that I heard it ten miles away. And some folks complained like hey, they're just having these explosions without warning. People can't even brace themselves or you know, or brace themselves that their windows might crack, or that they might feel some kind of, hear some kind of boom or feel some kind of shock wave.

So we've been seeing explosions in packs. We've been seeing the wildlife refuge catch fire, you know, families have been displaced from the beach, the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe has, you know, they've been prevented from accessing their sacred lands and sacred sites because of excessive beach closures, and we've also seen gentrification. You know, there's this really famous tweet where Elon Musk tweeted, telling people to move to Brownsville and South Padre Island to work for SpaceX. And there's been a huge drive of people coming into the community, buying up properties to make AirBnBs, or people who have come and moved here because they want to live close to SpaceX. You know, by buying up property, just to be close to SpaceX and you know, causing gentrification, and there were families that lived on Boca Chica beach. SpaceX has pretty much bought them all out. And it's interesting that you can drive down the street that used to have, you know, families or retirees. You can see we could see how they flipped the houses. If it was now owned by SpaceX, it had been painted a gray color and has a Tesla parked in the parking lot. And then you could see like, which house still had a community member, local community member and because it looked like a regular home that had color and character. And this change has been so rapid, just within the last three or four years that SpaceX has literally exploded.

Courtney Naquin: Literally exploded. Yeah. 

Rebekah Hinojosa: People here are seriously worried about, you know, LNG, giant storage tanks full of methane, full of gas, next door to SpaceX with regular, dangerous explosions. I mean, those are both extreme safety hazards just on their own, but putting them next door to each other? Why do they want to blow up our community? And the regulators haven't answered questions. Community members sent public comments to the Federal Aviation Administration demanding that they address nearby fossil fuel facilities and the risk of big explosions. They ignored all those comments, not a single sentence to address those concerns. And community members have spoken up in local news, like what's going to happen if there's an LNG tanker ship three football fields long near SpaceX. That's terrifying.

The local elected officials here just take money from the Musk Foundation. They take money from SpaceX and they just look the other way whenever there's a wildlife refuge burning down or whenever there's someone speaking up about being displaced. They literally pretend it's not happening. They look the other way.

Courtney Naquin: That's a way to like, it's a pitiful thing to say. Like that's unfortunate. Your entire ecosystem burned down. Bummer. So like to that end too, you know, the real risk and the real fear around LNG can go back to also the potential danger of CCS? Because we don't know how safe liquid carbon is. But that's something that CCS or Rio Grande LNG, or any other company will really promote because they want people to hear “low carbon,” but they don't want to talk about the risks of, like, where that carbon goes.

I know that shrimpers in particular are very anti LNG in Brownsville, because of what it will do to the to where they, you know, where they shrimp, where the what they will do to the to the shipping basin, because like I think, can you explain more about that like what, like, widening the ship channel will do to the shrimpers?

Rebekah Hinojosa: So we've talked to local shippers in Brownsville, and one shrimper told us that the shrimp lay their eggs in the ship channel. And if and when, you know, an LNG facility releases toxic pollution, which it will, you know that will kill shrimp eggs, and if it's dead in the ship channel, and the shrimp will be dead out in the bay where a lot of shrimpers throw their nets. So it’s very clear the dangerous impacts that :NG would have on the shrimping industry. And a lot of shrimpers lease their docks from the Port of Brownsville. 

So the Port of Brownsville owns the shipping basin. So it's difficult for local shrimpers to speak out. You know, they're worried about retaliation from the port of Brownsville because the port of Brownsville is a huge supporter of LNG. They're the local elected officials pushing it the most, forcing LNG the most into our community. 

Courtney Naquin: Right, thank you for getting into that a little bit more because that sort of a through line that exists in the Gulf Coast where shrimping, fishing, oyster farming, etcetera, is such a big part of the heritage economy, you know? That's an entire industry that is very at risk because of polluting industry. And whenever we think of like what jobs, “jobs”, will be added to this area that the you know, local government in LNG companies are like promising, what they're not saying is like the jobs that will be lost, and what other like what areas of expertise or other skills will not be as supported, or will not be able to keep up because there's not as much support or even belief that there's that, these things are impacted. 

Rebekah Hinojosa: Yeah, I mean, the LNG industry likes to tout “Oh, jobs and money,” claims that they’ll bring all these jobs but the community’s here, they've made it clear that LNG would actually cost them jobs, cost people's livelihoods. You know, there's a dolphin watch tour company that's like a local family led dolphin launch tour company that's worried, you know. Will they still be able to give tours if the ship channel is clogged full of tanker ships? It sounds like that would prevent them from being able to use the ship channel to show people dolphins and dolphins don't want to be around massive tanker ships. What does that mean for the ecosystem for dolphins? What does it mean for sea turtles that might get hit by these tanker ships? You know, for shrimpers and fishermen, the Port of Brownsville doesn't seem to care if they put up, push out the shipping and fishing industry. I went on a tour of Freeport with a community member and they pointed along the ship channel where they used to see a bunch of shrimpers dock their ships, dock their boats and it was empty now and just full of industry ships. We don't want to be part of a before and after.

Courtney Naquin: That's a good point. Yeah, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to speak with us. I've really enjoyed interviewing you and I'm really excited to share this with everyone else. 


Jade Woods: My name is Jade Woods, I take she/her pronouns. And I’m a campaigner on carbon capture and storage at the Center for International Environmental Law [CIEL]. I’m based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is where I’m from and where I’ve grown up and lived for most of my life. And I’m actually relatively new to the fight against carbon capture but have my roots in environmental justice organizing, and particularly student activism when I was involved in my school’s fossil fuel divestment campaign at Harvard College. So, that’s kind of how I got my start in organizing and activism and, out of college, I joined CIEL staff and now I’m with you here today.

Courtney Naquin: Right on, that’s awesome. Um, the first question I want to ask you is sort of a baseline basic question of what exactly is CCS? And why has this been in the news over the past couple of years? But even more recently, over that, like, especially like 2022, I feel like CCS really came up in Texas and Louisiana.

Jade Woods: It’s a basic question, but it’s actually a tricky place to start. CCS goes by several names: carbon capture and storage, carbon capture and sequestration, also sometimes called CCUS, carbon capture, utilization, and storage, is essentially the theory. I refuse to call it a technology, because I think that gives it some legitimacy. It is a theory that through industrial or energy producing processes, one can capture carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it underground, or use it for some other purpose. And the reason I say this is a theory is not because it's unproven, but because it's proven to not work. There has been a long and storied history of CCS, of examples where CCS has proven to be very costly, cost taxpayers in the United States billions of dollars and seen very minimal results in terms of the amount of CO2 emissions reduced. Um, it's claimed to be a techno fix to climate change, in the sense that if we cannot stop burning coal and oil and gas for energy production, if we cannot reduce our greenhouse gas emissions at the source, then maybe we can reduce them down the line in terms of capturing emissions, and we've seen that that just doesn't work. 

And to answer the second part of your question, why 2022, it's actually a very interesting reason. This comes from climate legislation that was passed in 2022, mainly the Inflation Reduction Act, or what's often known as the IRA. The IRA, um, boosted federal subsidies for carbon capture and storage. What it did was increase the amount of money that carbon capture companies receive for every ton of CO2 they capture and store, or every time that CO2 that they capture and use for something else, and the subsidies almost doubled. And so we're seeing that companies are realizing they can make tons of money and receive hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars of federal subsidies to do this process.

Courtney Naquin: Wow, thank you so much for breaking that down for us. It's really interesting that you say that carbon capture is a theory. I think that is a good way to start framing things. So, building up what you were just saying though, on the fact that it is proven to not work. CCS seems to be a theory that is used as a way to greenwash a lot of different industry or new projects. In particular, the work that I've been doing is on fracked gas and on LNG and it seems that those two things tend to be pretty paired. Can you explain a little bit to us on what your take on greenwashing is and how CCS is a part of greenwashing? And why would industry even want to greenwash? 

Jade Woods: Certainly. Greenwashing comes out of a peculiar sort of progress for the climate movement. In previous years, a lot of the discourse from certain angles was “climate change is a hoax. It's not real. The globe isn't warming and the tides aren't rising.” We don't really see that anymore. What we see now is broad consensus, because the science is so undeniable that climate change is happening. The global temperature is rising, and so is the sea level. And that's a real victory that we have consensus now. But with that new consensus comes a new challenge, which is that mainly corporations don't want to take accountability for the role that they have in perpetuating the climate crisis. And they want to proceed with business as usual. And the way that they do that is by saying that they are going to be doing a lot, making great strides to decrease their contribution to the climate crisis without really doing much, and that's essentially what greenwashing is. 

One big example of this that my organization, CIEL, has talked a lot about is Net Zero pledges. We don't want net zero, we want real zero. And just in case people don't know what net zero is, net zero is the idea that a corporation, university, group can offset the emissions that they currently put out by doing things in so called negative emissions technologies, so buying carbon offsets, planting more trees, doing things that are hard to quantify, and hard to make tangible but are pledges that they make to say that the amount of emissions that they currently produce can be offset at some point in the future. But the problem is that we're out of time. These net zero by 2050 pledges aren't really getting us to where we need to be. We need immediate and urgent cuts in the greenhouse gas emissions seen from industry around the world. And greenwashing is a way to slow that down.

Courtney Naquin: That's a really important context to hear. To that end also, despite the newer discourse that we're hearing, also despite how it seems that CCS has been really boosted in the past year because of the IRA. We also do know that CCS as a theory isn't really that new in the sense that like, you mentioned earlier that it was used, that the coal industry really touted CCS. Can you explain a little bit of that history?

Jade Woods: Absolutely. I'm sure that most of the people that listen to your podcast have already heard of CCS in some form, because it used to be called clean coal. Clean coal was the idea that we could make coal “clean” by scrubbing the emissions that it created from the atmosphere and doing something else with those emissions that were scrubbed. There was a lot of misrepresentation, particularly in the Trump administration, that clean coal was like a physical thing. I remember him saying that you've seen, you know, carts and carts of clean coal. That's not what it is. What it is, is essentially carbon capture, and so clean coal is an idea failed because it was too costly and ineffective. And now, because the proponents of clean coal have realized that, they've done a rebrand and it's now called carbon capture and storage.

Courtney Naquin: Hmm, I did not know that. That's really interesting, but to so expanding on that and can you know, get into like the technical parts of like, how does CCS actually work? What happens out at plants? What do they do with the carbon capture? I know that some large percentage is shipped back to oil fields to enhance oil recovery and another percentage, a smaller percentage is injected into the ground. Can you clarify some of that and just get into the mechanics of it?

Jade Woods: Certainly. Courtney, you stole my thunder about enhanced oil recovery! That was going to be my big twist at the end of that, how it's not actually sequestered. But yes, we'll get to that. So mainly, the three main components of CCS are in the name, but let's break it down. There is the capture, which is normally at an industry site or an energy plant when some sort of fossil gas or fossil fuel is being burned. The emissions go up through a flue stack and they are captured. And the CO2 is distilled using a solvent and then that CO2 is pressurized, sent through a pipeline to somewhere, it could be to a field for sequestration. In my home state of Louisiana, there's currently a project underway for CO2 to be sequestered under shallow waters in a lake, which has never been done before and it's very concerning to me. But it can also be transported through a pipeline back to oil fields right back to be used to harvest more oil through a process called Enhanced Oil Recovery and what we're seeing is that that's actually the way that CCS is financially viable to the extent that it is. 

So there's a real deep sort of irony here where CCS is being touted as a climate solution, something to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing that CO2 from the sky yet, what we're seeing is that the CO2 that's captured is being shipped to oil fields to be highly pressurized and used to harvest oil from old wells that had already been kind of sucked dry. And then that oil is being burned and producing more CO2. So it's an absolute scam. It's an absolute scam. And there is really no justification from the climate side at least, about why on earth carbon dioxide should be used for enhanced oil recovery. I didn't mention this before, that's what about 80% of captured carbon, maybe even more is going towards.

Courtney Naquin: Wow.

Jade Woods: I just wanted to add an analogy that I heard recently that I thought was really apt: carbon capture and storage is like if you see a bathtub that is overflowing with water, and you decide the best way to stop the flood is to dump more water in the bathtub. Not to turn off the faucet and not even to mop up the water, just to keep dumping water and say, somehow this will stop the floods, somehow this will stop climate change.

Courtney Naquin: We've been talking a lot about how CCS projects are being added to plants along the Gulf Coast or in Texas, or the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. But both of these states, Texas and Louisiana, have to worry about CCS projects from around the country. So what is the national build out of CCS? What is that like and how does that impact Texas in Louisiana? How are our states implicated in the national build out?

Jade Woods: Right, so you're 100% right. This is a national scale of build out that we're seeing CCS projects trying to move forward in California and the Midwest, particularly in Iowa, Minnesota. One of the companies that is trying to build out a huge project in Louisiana is based in Pennsylvania and has strong roots there. So this is really a national thing. It's an international thing truly, but in terms of the United States, there are federal agencies right now who are making big decisions that will determine the fate of Louisiana and Texas. The EPA has huge power in deciding which states are allowed privacy, or the ability to have primary authority about how CCS projects get permitted. And so, on the federal level, lots of CCS opponents are tracking what the EPA is doing and trying to influence that process because it will have real effects for people on the ground and Louisiana and Texas, which are two of the states that have applied for primacy over classics wells, which I think we're going to talk more about in a minute.

Courtney Naquin: Right. Okay. Thank you for sharing. So CCS and greenwashing is not just industry folks claiming that there's new technology here. The federal government is like 100% behind all of this, as we were mentioning with the IRA, even paying for it with subsidies. And can you talk about the four  five Q tax credits or 45 Q tax credits and what do they need for industry and would CCS projects be viable without government subsidies?

Jade Woods: That's a good question. So the 45 Q tax credit is something that existed before the Inflation Reduction Act. But the Inflation Reduction Act has certainly augmented it. It is a tax credit given to companies that perform carbon capture and awards a certain dollar amount for every ton of carbon that, forgive me, every ton of CO2 that they capture and store or capture and use for something else. And so right now, there was a significant increase in the past calendar year of the amount of money that CCS companies received for capturing CO2. They are fully intent on making every dollar profit that they can. 

And to answer the second part of your question, no, these companies would not be viable without the 45 Q tax credit. And this is notable because we're seeing that the federal government is giving lifeline subsidies to a dying industry. That is not necessary.

Courtney Naquin: Yeah, but thank you for sharing more context about the history of like the government support and also just how not profitable a lot of these like industry schemes tend to be. I mean it, we see it also with LNG, also where they receive multi billion dollar tax subsidies. And without them, it seems like they really couldn't secure funding on their own. It's not something that is inherently profitable. It's another suite of things that they’re greenwashing also.

Jade Woods: Yeah, if I could add also, we've seen I said that CCS has proven to not work. One of the biggest examples of that is the failure of a project called Petra Nova in Texas. Petra Nova was a CCS retrofit to a coal plant that received so much money, over a billion dollars to make this CCS project happen. But the Petro Nova project started in 2017 and had to close in 2020. Just three years, it had to shut down because, not only were they having technical problems with the CCS technology itself, but also because they are so dependent on enhanced oil recovery, like I was talking about earlier, the price of oil dropped in 2020 and all of a sudden they couldn't make any money off of it. That is how unstable and economically fragile these projects are, that a simple fluctuation in the oil market can cause the whole CCS project that received over a billion dollars of taxpayer money that's never going to be coming back to us, to crumble.

Courtney Naquin: Ooh, that hurts. 

Jade Woods: Yeah. (laughs)

Courtney Naquin: So Louisiana and Texas are applying to the EPA, as you mentioned, for privacy over the classics injection wells or class. Yeah, right. That's what this is, classics injection wells, and CIEL and others in Louisiana have been vocal about it and have been speaking up. So can you describe what a classics injection well is and why does it matter? Who regulates them?

Jade Woods: The EPA has a program, its Underground Injection Control Program that essentially regulates substances that are injected underground, and they are wells for different types of substances and different purposes what is typically the case is that the EPA has control over issuing permits for people who want to use that kind of well, but states can intervene and say we would actually like that authority. Our state regulatory agencies are well positioned to be the ones issuing those permits and plus, oh, EPA, you're so busy. How about you let us do it instead, and that would be capacity that our state takes on and the EPA can worry about bigger and better things. So that concept is called primacy, a state applying for primacy to a primary authority over who gets permits for a certain kind of well, so right now, only two states have privacy for classics wells, the CO2 wells, and that's North Dakota and Wyoming. 

And I don't know if y'all know much about North Dakota and Wyoming. I don't, except that there aren't very many people there. And so the two states that have primacy right now are not very population dense. And so if there was, God forbid something to happen on a CO2 pipeline there, the effects might not be seen immediately on human populations. And so my concern is that states that are much more population dense, like Louisiana and Texas, are now at the front of the EPA’s queue for considering primacy. And there are real concerns about if Louisiana’s granted primacy, there could be real swift turnaround about who is getting permits for CCS projects to go ahead. That process, instead of taking years, now takes months and people on the ground wouldn't even have time to really gather information about what's being put in their own backyards.

And there's a real lack of trust between Louisiana state regulatory agencies in the community. I mean, Louisiana has thousands upon thousands of abandoned oil wells, primarily in communities of Color, wells that could cause environmental health hazards. And so the question that becomes obvious is, why on earth would the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources be fit to have primacy over class six wells, which are related to a novel theory of a technology that has not been proven to work in any real capacity? And the question is that they shouldn't be trusted to do that, Louisiana should not be granted primacy, and if it is, it will be a great failure of the EPA's duty to protect the health and welfare of people.

I want to also add an element of hope there. We are incredibly organized in Louisiana. Tons of community organizations, passionate residents who care about their homes have been banding together and if the EPA does grant Louisiana primacy, which we're fighting every step of the way, we'll be ready to continue this fight.


Courtney Naquin: Thank you all for tuning in. I hope that you enjoyed listening to this episode as I did speaking with Jade and Bekah. I hope you've been enjoying this podcast in general. I hope that it's been providing you with a lot of great information and resources, and that you’ve been getting inspired to join the movement and join us in this collective envisioning for a better, healthier, more equitable future where we move away from polluting and extractive industries. As always, I’ve been Courtney Naquin. Shoutout to our editor, Thomas Walsh, our project manager, Natalie McLendon, to my coworker and co-producer, Roddy Hughes, and of course our cowpoke in residence, Purly Gates. This episode has been recorded in Bulbancha, also known as New Orleans, on the ancestral lands of the Houma, Chitimacha, Choctaw, Ishak, and Biloxi People. See y’all next time.