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Biomass Carbon Capture Project Canceled in California’s Central Valley

by Center for Biological Diversity
Company Withdraws Permits Under EPA Scrutiny
MCFARLAND, Calif., April 5, 2024 — A major biomass and carbon capture and storage project slated for California’s Central Valley abruptly ended this week after the company, under scrutiny from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, withdrew federal and local permits.

Last week the EPA ordered San Joaquin Renewables to either withdraw its carbon dioxide injection permit or face cancelation because of discrepancies between the company’s EPA application and how the company described the project in its local land use application.

Residents and environmental advocates fighting the project learned Thursday that the company had pulled both its EPA permit and the city of McFarland land use permit for the proposed project. With no applications left, this marks the end of the project that was first proposed to regulators in 2021.

“The EPA showed exactly the kind of carbon capture scrutiny we need by ordering this project to withdraw its permit,” said Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Carbon capture and storage is a dangerous distraction from real climate action. We need our government officials to put these projects under the microscope, ask tough questions, and refuse to rubberstamp them. If this project ever resurfaces, we’ll be there for the fight.”

San Joaquin Renewables told the EPA that it planned to inject up to 1,200 tons per day of carbon dioxide waste under its property, located just two miles from McFarland. Modeling showed the injected carbon dioxide impact area stretched far beyond the injection site, even reaching into the nearby town of Delano.

Carbon capture and storage, or CCS, compresses carbon dioxide, turning it into an asphyxiant. A leak can harm and even suffocate people and animals, even those far away from the leak.

The project also proposed relying on a new gas-fired power plant to supply its operations. McFarland, as with much of California’s Central Valley, has some of the worst air quality in the country.

“It’s a great win for the community of McFarland for San Joaquin Renewables to no longer be moving forward with their polluting biomass with carbon capture facility,” said Ileana Navarro, a community organizer at Central California Environmental Justice Network. “We found most residents were either unaware of this dangerous project being proposed just two miles from their homes, or completely opposed to it.”

“No amount of money would ever be enough in exchange for our safety,” said Beatriz Barron, a McFarland resident. “We're glad to see this project canceled.”

This withdrawal marks the second time a CCS company has wasted government resources by submitting a deficient permit application. In April 2022, Clean Energy Systems withdrew their carbon injection permit application with the EPA after the agency ordered it to do so.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
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