A senior Energy Department official is giving a political assist to the Environmental Protection Agency by vouching for carbon-trapping technology that EPA is essentially requiring for new coal-fired power plants.
Christopher Smith, the acting head of DOE's fossil-energy office, said the technology is ready and pledged to help speed its market penetration in written comments to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee lawmakers.
The comments responded to questions from senators — including Republican critics of EPA's climate regulations — as part of Smith's nomination to formally become DOE's assistant secretary for fossil energy.
"[Carbon capture and storage] technology has been and continues to be deployed in a range of projects. There are 12 large-scale CCS projects in operation worldwide today," Smith said in the comments, which were submitted late last month and provided by the committee on Tuesday.
He continued, "If confirmed, I will continue to work with industry in advancing CCS technologies to continue reducing the cost of capture, making CCS more efficient, and preparing for wider-scale deployment in future years."
His comments arrive as Republicans and some coal-country Democrats are hammering EPA's proposed carbon-emissions rules for future power plants.
The rules, floated in June, effectively require coal-fired plants to trap and store a substantial portion of their emissions. Critics of the proposal call it a de facto ban on new coal plants, asserting that the technology is nowhere close to widespread readiness.
Smith, in response to a question from Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., cautioned that his agency does not determine whether a technology is "adequately demonstrated" within the meaning of the Clean Air Act. That's EPA's call.
But he noted, "All components of CCS, including large-scale CO2 capture, transportation, and multimillion-ton per year injection, have been demonstrated worldwide and in the U.S. for many years."