USDA Forest Service Proposes to Allow Carbon Capture Projects on National Forests

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would allow the agency to consider proposals for potential carbon capture and sequestration projects on national forests and grasslands. This proposal would harmonize the framework between the federal government’s two largest land managers by aligning with regulatory structures already established for the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.  

Carbon dioxide emissions can be mitigated by capturing and sequestering these emissions into suitable deep underground geologic formations. These efforts are important to combat climate change and to meet President Biden’s domestic climate goal of net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. A recent analysis by the International Energy Agency projected that globally, 1.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide must be captured and sequestered every year by 2030, to remain on track to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The proposal, if finalized, would allow the Forest Service to contribute to this broader global effort to mitigate climate change. This would be in addition to the other ways through which healthy forests and grasslands help mitigate climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in plants and soils.

If this amendment is finalized, applications for carbon sequestration on national forests or grasslands would be considered for permanent use. The proposed regulation changes the initial screening criteria to allow the Forest Service to consider proposals for carbon capture and sequestration projects and does not allow for any other permanent uses on national forests and grasslands.

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The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring that carbon capture and sequestration projects are designed, built, and operated safely and responsibly, and in a way that reflects the best science and responds to the needs and inputs of local communities.

The Forest Service does not currently have any carbon sequestration project proposals under consideration. All proposals must still pass secondary screening to be accepted as a formal application. Any carbon storage proposals must also comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and receive approval by an authorized officer at the Forest Service. The proposed amendment does not supersede existing tribal treaty rights, agreements, authorities and land use.