The Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management released a notice of intent (“NOI”) and request for information (“RFI”) regarding “Launching a Responsible Carbon Management Initiative” (the “Initiative”). Interested parties have an opportunity to submit comments until September 11, 2023.
The Initiative is supported by $12 billion in funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (a.k.a. the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law or “BIL”) for distribution over a period of five years. In proposing the Initiative, DOE seeks to encourage carbon management project developers to ensure that their carbon control projects meet a set of best practices that extend beyond the efficiency and economy of the carbon control technology itself.
Details of the Initiative
DOE plans to roll out the Initiative in at least two phases. The first phase involves establishing a set of Principles for responsible carbon management. The NOI provides industry the opportunity to comment on a set of draft Principles and, more generally, on the goals of the Initiative. It also invites commenters to indicate whether they would be willing to pledge to abide by or endorse the final Principles. The second phase will provide financial assistance pursuant to a future funding opportunity announcement (“FOA”) inviting applications for funding to support responsible carbon management projects. DOE notes that it is considering a third phase that would provide “a robust recognition program to increase and maintain the visibility of industry leaders and projects that significantly advance responsible carbon management.”
DOE proposes the following Principles for Responsible Carbon Management Projects:
- Community Engagement
- Workforce Development and Quality Jobs
- Tribal Consultation
- Environmental Justice
- Environmental Responsibility
- Air and Water Quality
- Regulatory Requirements
- Health and Safety
- Emergency Response
- Long-Term Stewardship
DOE invites comment on whether these are the right Principles and whether others should be added.
The Initiative also aims for greater transparency and sharing of data and information among industry, governments, and other stakeholders. Project developers or other industry participants that wish to demonstrate support for these Principles will be encouraged to complete an intake form with DOE in Phase 1, which may require a description of how the entity plans to meet the Principles. This information will be published on DOE's website, and DOE will also encourage the industry participants to publish it on their own websites.
In Phase 2, DOE intends to release a funding opportunity announcement (“FOA”) that would provide resources to industry participants (from the $12 billion in funding over five years) to meet the Principles or other aspects of the Initiative, including increased transparency and third-party verification.
Importantly, DOE states that it does not anticipate making participation in Phase 1 of the Initiative a prerequisite for participation in Phase 2. However, participation in Phase 1 and collaboration with DOE through the Initiative would presumably provide an advantage in Phase 2, when the funds are distributed.
If DOE deems Phases 1 and 2 successful, it may develop a “recognition program” to promote visibility for industry participants that “significantly advance responsible carbon management.”
Intended Funding Beneficiaries
The NOI is specifically focused on those undertaking carbon management projects that involve carbon capture from industrial facilities and power plants, removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, conversion of captured carbon into low and zero-emission products, and the transport and geologic storage of carbon dioxide. DOE notes that the Initiative is not intended to extend to other types of clean energy technologies and measures. DOE explicitly distinguishes between the “carbon management” activities that are covered by the NOI, and other “complementary” efforts to reduce carbon emissions such as energy efficiency, renewables, nuclear power, and clean hydrogen, which receive other funding under the BIL and which DOE does not intend to cover through the Initiative.
Comments Due September 11
Before Phase 1 commences, DOE is requesting comments on the Initiative and its underlying principles by September 11, 2023. DOE specifically welcomes comments on the following questions:
- Would the Initiative and the Principles be likely to meaningfully advance responsible carbon management? If not, what changes could be made to better advance this goal?
- At a high level, do the Principles address what is needed for responsible carbon management? If not, what additional principles may be needed?
- In what ways, if any, could the Principles be revised to better reflect responsible carbon management?
- Once finalized, would you agree to pledge to abide by or endorse the Principles? If not, what changes could be made to Phase 1 to encourage you to pledge to abide by or endorse the Principles?
- How could Phase 2 and a recognition program be structured and executed to maximize adoption of the Principles?
- Would the technical assistance envisioned in Phase 2 be helpful to advance responsible carbon management projects? Would you take advantage of this service or encourage others to take advantage? If not, why not?
DOE intends to protect properly-marked confidential business information submitted as part of these comments pursuant to 10 CFR 1004.11, although DOE reserves the right to make its own determination regarding what is considered confidential.
By any standard, $12 billion is a large amount of federal support for a single program. It is perhaps not surprising that DOE has decided that a set of best carbon management practices should be developed to guide those that wish to pursue that funding. Again, while not a prerequisite to or a guarantee of selection for an award, those who demonstrate early support for the Initiative may be more likely to be able to put together applications that DOE finds persuasive and later to enjoy positive publicity from the Initiative.
Other industry participants, however, even if they are pursuing carbon reduction activities, may be reluctant to sign on to the DOE Principles. Time will tell how they fare in the competition for funding. This open comment period provides industry participants with a valuable opportunity to express support or provide constructive criticism of the Initiative.
We have substantial experience advising on DOE funding opportunities and initiatives, and we can help draft comments.
Authored by Mary Anne Sullivan and Rob Matsick.