Operations Inside The NRG Energy Inc. Coal Power Plant
A carbon dioxide warning is displayed on the grounds near equipment installed as part of the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project at the NRG Energy Inc. WA Parish generating station in Thompsons, Texas, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017.
Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration's plans to capture millions of tons of carbon dioxide to combat climate change will depend on the federal regulators cracking down on a new generation of pipelines.

At least 45 people were sent to the hospital in Mississippi in 2020 because of a leak in a pipe that was proposed to be fined yesterday by thePHMSA. As the US makes plans to build a network of pipelines to transport captured CO2, the agency pledged to craft new rules to prevent similar failures.

A new generation of pipelines

In the US, there are not many of these because they are mostly used by the fossil fuel industry to push CO2 into oil fields. In February of 2020, a small town in Mississippi was evacuated due to the release of 30,000 barrels of liquid carbon dioxide from one of the pipelines. According to an investigation published last year by HuffPost and the Climate Investigations Center, some people who weren't able to leave in time were left convulsing, confused, or unconscious.

The gas is transported at high pressure and concentration to make it an asphyxiant. CO2 can be harmful on its own, even though it was mixed with hydrogen sulfide. CO2 accidents kill about 100 workers a year. The heavier it is, the more it can sink to the ground and blanket a large area. It can strand people trying to evacuate or authorities trying to respond to the crisis if vehicles of oxygen are deprived.

The operator of the Denbury Gulf Coast Pipeline would have to pay $3,866,734 in penalties for violating the law. First responders were left to guess what was going on after receiving reports of a green gas in the area.

Denbury failed to conduct routine inspections and lacked written procedures that would allow the operator to respond to emergencies such as guidelines for communicating with emergency responders.

The company plans to work with all federal, state, and local agencies to prevent future problems, according to a statement from Denbury.

“The list of proposed new CO2 pipeline projects seems to grow every week”

There are requirements for how to respond to and prepare for emergencies in the new rules for CO2 pipes. The assessment commissioned by the charity and advocacy group was published earlier this year.

In the meantime, the PHMSA posted an advisory bulletin urging operators to plan for risks like the one that occurred near Satartia, especially as climate change leads to more extreme weather that can affect the stability of soil surrounding the lines.

The failure of Denbury in Satartia,MS demonstrates the dangers of CO2 releases.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed last year includes $18 billion for projects that capture carbon dioxide from the air or smokestack emissions. The greenhouse gas will be moved to places where it can be stored away in order to prevent it from heating up the planet. If the US wants to deal with climate change by capturing carbon dioxide, it will have to figure out its problems.