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Alarm at plan to stash planet-heating CO2 beneath US national forests

According to the US Geological Survey, suitable carbon storage space lies beneath about 130m acres of federal land, including that controlled by the Forest Service. (USDA Forest Service/Preston Keres)

By Pam Radtke for The Guardian

A proposal that would allow industries to permanently stash climate-polluting carbon dioxide beneath US Forest Service land puts those habitats and the people in or near them at risk, according to opponents of the measure.

Chief among opponents’ concerns is that carbon dioxide could leak from storage wells or pipelines and injure or kill people and animals, as well as harm the trees in the forests and their habitat, said Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“There are enough broad-ranging concerns with this rule that this isn’t the time to move forward and experiment when the consequences are so high,” said Bogdan Tejeda.

In 2020, a carbon dioxide pipeline ruptured in Mississippi, sending 49 people to the hospital.

The debate about the proposal in the US comes as the capture and storage of carbon to mitigate climate change is one of the talking points at the ongoing UN Cop28 climate summit in Dubai.

Concentrations of the gas, which is odorless and heavier than oxygen, can also prevent combustion engines from operating. Bogdan Tejeda worries that people even a mile or two from a carbon dioxide leak could start suffocating and have no way to escape.

Proponents of the proposal, however, say storage can be managed safely, and such regulatory changes are needed to meet the nation’s climate goals.

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