March 11, 2020) --- The Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea, pictured from the International Space Station, separate the western-most border of the United States and Canada.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea, pictured from the International Space Station, separate the western-most border of the United States and Canada (March 11, 2020). Credit: NASA Johnson. CC.

Developers in offshore carbon capture and storage should connect early in the project design process with regulatory agencies.

That message is a key takeaway from a Sabin Center for Climate Change paper examining the complex legal issues associated with deploying the Solid Carbon system in the Canadian portion of the Cascadia Basin.

The Sabin Center is a research partner within the PICS Solid Carbon negative emissions technology feasibility study, led by Oceans Network Canada, a University of Victoria initiative. The project, which involves an international team of researchers, aims to develop an integrated system to remove carbon dioxide from the air and permanently store it in sub-seabed geologic formations off the west coast of Canada.

Released on February 10, 2021, the paper explains that there is no single, comprehensive legal framework for the novel concept of offshore carbon capture and storage in Canadian waters, and that multiple, overlapping regulatory frameworks could apply. Each component of the Solid Carbon system will, therefore, be regulated separately. Furthermore, several of those frameworks are relatively new and untested, leading to significant uncertainty. 

As such, authors Romany Webb, Associate Research Scholar at Columbia Law School and Michael Gerrard, the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Law School, recommend that developers engage early with regulatory agencies, and where possible, participate in relevant agency consultations and regulatory proceedings, as well as advocate for a regulatory framework that facilitates offshore approaches.

This research was conducted under Activity 3 of the Solid Carbon project, which is examining social, regulatory, and investor acceptance, as well as gaps in current law. 

Read the paper and the Sabin Center blog.