Montana State University

MSU to lead regional partnership on carbon sequestration

September 23, 2003 -- by Annette Trinity-Stevens

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The Department of Energy has designated Montana State University in Bozeman as the leader of a regional partnership aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the agency announced recently.

Funded with a $1.6-million grant from the agency--matched by $400,000 of state and regional dollars--the partnership will identify the most suitable ways of sequestering greenhouse gases in the northern Rockies, including Montana, Idaho and South Dakota.

Sequestration refers to methods of capturing and permanently isolating greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide that otherwise could contribute to global climate change.

Called the Northern Rockies and Great Plains Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, the group consists of 13 public, private and governmental organizations and two Indian tribes.

Its leader is Susan Capalbo, a professor of agricultural economics at MSU Bozeman, who heads another sequestration research effort called the Consortium for Agricultural Soils Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases.

For two years, the partnership will identify and catalogue the region's carbon dioxide sources and promising storage sites, both above ground in plant cover and below ground in geologic features. It also will look at ways to optimize the area's carbon storage potential; enhance market-based carbon-storage methods, where individuals or industries are paid to sequester carbon; identify and test new ways of measuring greenhouse gases; ask community leaders to help define carbon sequestration strategies; and involve the public in sequestration ideas and issues.

"The partnership will examine which of the numerous carbon sequestration approaches can be successfully implemented in our region so we may contribute to President Bush's goal of reducing greenhouse gas intensity 18 percent by 2012," Capalbo said.

The regional partnership is one of seven formed through the Energy Department's National Energy Technology Laboratory. The agency views the partnerships as the centerpiece of a nationwide federal sequestration program aimed at stabilizing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide without requiring the U.S. and other countries to make large-scale changes to their energy infrastructures, according to the agency's web site.

Capalbo said a proposed second phase of funding will allow the partnerships to test and implement sequestration practices and create more detailed regulatory and infrastructure planning.

Partners include the following:

The state of Montana and the National Carbon Offset Coalition, which are providing matching funds through bilateral legislative support and the Governor's Office;

Nez Perce Tribe and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, which will provide links to forestry carbon projects;

Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, which is supplying geologic and geospatial data management expertise from the Subsurface Science Initiative; and the Inland Northwest Regional Alliance, which includes Boise State and the University of Idaho;

Los Alamos National Laboratory, which will evaluate geologic sequestration potential and advanced sequestration ideas;

South Dakota School of Mines and Texas A&M University, which will provide soil carbon measurement and monitoring techniques for plant-based sequestration and range-land management;

EnTech Strategies, LLC and New Directions, which will gather public comments regarding carbon sequestration strategies;

and several companies and energy coalitions.

Contact: Susan Capalbo, (406) 994-5619 or scapalbo@montana.edu