Tester bill breathes new life into Montana carbon sequestration study

Legislation revives, funds MSU's Big Sky Sequestration Partnership

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – An ambitious new project to study the future of carbon sequestration in Montana may get a second chance, thanks to a new bill co-sponsored by Senator Jon Tester.

Carbon sequestration involves capturing carbon dioxide emissions from facilities like coal-fired power plants and piping the gas underground where it is either stored or absorbed into the earth.

The innovative process helps keep air clean and slows the effects of climate change by keeping carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, out of the atmosphere.

"There's no doubt about it, coal is going to be a big part of Montana's energy future," Tester said.  "But when we talk about coal development, we ought to talk about carbon sequestration in the same breath.  It will keep our economy strong and our sky blue.  This is a new frontier and Montana should lead the way."

The legislation co-sponsored by Tester revives the Big Sky Sequestration Partnership, a new, ten-year research project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and spearheaded by Montana State University.

MSU got a running start on the project late last year thanks to a $67 million non-competitive contract from the federal government, but that funding was revoked in February after President Bush proposed significant cuts to carbon sequestration research.

Tester's new legislation not only revives the MSU project, it increases funding for the Big Sky Sequestration Partnership and six similar projects across the country by providing them $90 million in 2008, $105 million in 2009 and $120 million in 2010.

The U.S. plans to share research from these projects with other countries like China in hopes of making carbon sequestration a worldwide effort.

"This project will make Montana a world leader in responsible energy development," Tester said. "It will pave the path to clean development of our vast coal reserves—an industry that will bring new jobs and positive growth to Montana."

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer recently unveiled an energy proposal that encourages coal-to-fuel companies to pursue carbon sequestration by cutting property taxes for facilities that use the new technology.

Tester is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  Last month he held a series of panel discussions across Montana to explore how best to develop the state's renewable and non-renewable energy resources.