Clean hydrogen and carbon capture are terms that local government officials may have heard, but the potential that these emerging technologies could have in Western Pennsylvania may not be as well known. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $8 billion for the development of at least four regional clean hydrogen hubs across the country. In response, Governor Wolf announced a plan to secure Pennsylvania’s spot as a regional leader in hydrogen energy development, working with various stakeholders to lay the groundwork for such a hub. If Western Pennsylvania is chosen as a destination, it could also have ramifications for local and regional governments. The Department of Energy describes a hydrogen hub not by its individual components, but as a network of “hydrogen producers, consumers, and local connective infrastructure to accelerate the use of hydrogen as a clean energy carrier.” Hydrogen is a clean energy source that when burned produces only water vapor. Because hydrogen can be produced cleanly from natural gas using carbon capture and storage, or CCS, to store carbon emissions underground, the focus in this region has been on so-called “blue hydrogen.” Not only does this state have an abundant natural gas supply, it also has geography favorable for underground carbon storage, and heavy industry, such as steelmaking, that is looking for ways to decarbonize operations using hydrogen. In some ways, the development of a hydrogen hub could have similarities the shale boom Western Pennsylvania experienced in the 2010s. The establishment of a hub will present a number of opportunities and challenges, especially for local governments and landowners. Hydrogen energy and CCS will have impacts on land use/zoning, permitting responsibilities, workforce development, and environmental compliance. Because hydrogen energy development requires storage for the resource and carbon byproducts and infrastructure to transport both, local officials should expect new land uses that must be accommodated, permits for pipelines, workers for the burgeoning industry, and changes to environmental compliance issues, like storm water management and sedimentation/erosion control. There will also be new regulations required at the state level to govern CCS and pore space ownership, as well as decisions on which agencies will be responsible for oversight. If you are interested in learning more about hydrogen energy, CCS, and how they could impact local governments in Western Pennsylvania, then register for the free event “Harnessing Hydrogen: Exploring Local & Regional Opportunities in Appalachia” on October 4, 2022. The day-long event will feature talks by experts from all sectors related to hydrogen energy, panel discussions, and interest-specific breakout sessions. The event will be held by the Washington & Jefferson College Center for Energy Policy and Management on the college’s campus in Washington, PA. You can register by visiting wjenergy.org/hydrogen.
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