Bring carbon capture technology and its environmental benefits to Illinois

A carbon dioxide capture system is shown under construction in 2009 at American Electric Power’s Mountaineer Plant in New Haven, West Virginia.


When business and labor come together to support legislation, it’s a win for workers, families and our state’s economy. The Illinois General Assembly is considering legislation that would further enable carbon sequestration in the nation’s best geological areas, but we currently cannot site underground storage of captured carbon emissions in Illinois. 

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) delivers crucially important environmental and economic benefits. The time is now for Illinois to deliver these benefits to the state and the planet.

CCS is a technology that can capture CO2 emissions at the point of production from difficult-to-decarbonize sectors, such as power generation and manufacturing, then transport and store those emissions permanently within underground geological formations, thousands of feet beneath the surface.

According to the International Energy Agency, CCS could help achieve 15% of CO2 emissions reductions needed to reach global net zero emissions by 2050.

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The science is clear on CCS: This is a safe and effective means to reduce carbon emissions. And Illinois is uniquely positioned to lead in this space. A U.S. Department of Energy-backed study with the Illinois State Geological Survey at the University of Illinois found that a recent CCS project in the state has sufficiently demonstrated the ability to safely store CO2 at near-commercial scale within the Illinois Basin, which, given its unique sandstone and shale composition, is positioned to store billions of metric tons of carbon.

Backed by real-time data monitoring systems above and below ground, this project has confirmed the viability, efficacy and safety of the technology within our state.

An economic and environmental opportunity for Illinois

CCS also presents an incredible opportunity for Illinois’ economy and its highly skilled work force. A recent state-commissioned report by the University of Illinois estimates CCS development has a potential statewide demand of 14,440 jobs. And that’s on top of the thousands more jobs CCS can protect by helping decarbonize important Illinois industries as our state, country and world increasingly embrace a net zero carbon future.

The Biden administration, to its credit, has also embraced the value of this technology, supporting CCS advancement through both the DOE and bipartisan legislation in Congress. There are billions of federal dollars at play for states that take action to facilitate CCS projects. Illinois cannot sit back and let others seize this moment to secure public and private investment.

To be clear, CCS projects can already move forward under current law. There are millions of tons of CO2 already safely stored in Illinois. The state simply lacks the regulatory clarity landowners and businesses need for successful project development. Legislation jointly supported by business and labor will set clear permitting and ownership requirements, establishing the holistic framework needed for considerable investments in projects moving forward.

No taxpayer money needed

Also important to note is that this bill does not require taxpayer money for CCS. Job-creating leaders in this space are simply asking that the State of Illinois clarify rules to support a strong CCS market in Illinois. Private businesses are going to do what they do best: innovate and invest back into their businesses and communities. It’s up to the General Assembly to ensure they have the tools to do so.

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Unfortunately, as with many ground-breaking innovations, there is a degree of opposition. Some are even intent on advancing an anti-CCS bill, stating the “people of Illinois need protection” from this technology — which, again, has been developed in lockstep with federal agencies and regulators to ensure its safety.

Let’s embrace these proven technologies — improving our environment and economy along the way.

Pat Devaney is the secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO and Mark Denzler is the president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

The Sun-Times welcomes letters to the editor and op-eds. See our guidelines.

The views and opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chicago Sun-Times or any of its affiliates.

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April 28, 2023 at 06:24AM

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