[Source: SEHN, the Science and Environmental Health Network.]
By Carmi Orenstein, Editor
The federal government—continuing to crowd out the real climate solutions we so urgently need—has another wasteful and risky carbon capture and storage (CCS) plan in the works. The United States Forest Service (USFS) quietly announced that, for the first time, it could allow “exclusive or perpetual right of use or occupancy” for the injection of industrial carbon waste into National Forest System lands.
Paradoxically, the proposed policy change would bulldoze naturally carbon-sequestering forest areas in order to “store” waste carbon in those same areas—with unproven, risky technologies. The puzzling logic is unfortunately characteristic of our era. The federal government is going to great lengths to support “solutions” that ignore the urgent imperative to phase out fossil fuels.
The ecological disruption caused by logging and building access roads, pipelines, injection wells and well pads in forests is well established. Disruption of natural areas by, for example, the fracking industry, is already known to impede recreation, harm waterways, and introduce invasive species. This USFS plan would likely lead to the release of large quantities of carbon stored in the forest ecosystems and reduce future tree growth. The whole idea defies common sense climate action.
Further, the threat specifically posed by transport and storage of CO2 puts all natural systems and human communities in its path at profound risk. In the event of a rupture or release, compressed carbon dioxide, a deadly asphyxiant, threatens any living thing that is exposed. Emergency services may not be equipped to respond—especially in remote areas, which include many national forest lands.
This proposal would perpetually endanger rural and Indigenous communities’ health and rights. People who live near national forests, including those with treaty rights to hunt and gather, rely on their waters and wildlife to survive. We expect more from the Forest Service in meeting its obligations under statute and treaty.