Through the Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden administration is investing heavily in a new technological process called “carbon capture, sequestration, and utilization," which, in theory, buries carbon dioxide.

A company called “Southern Tier CO2 to Clean Energy Solutions LLC” or more simply, Southern Tier Solutions, is in the process of asking landowners in Broome, Chemung and Tioga counties to lease over 100,000 acres to create test wells.

Via a process called “closed loop drilling," Southern Tier Solutions would pump carbon dioxide underground into shale, forcing out methane, which the company would then harness to power 10 new gas-fired power plants. 

Southern Tier Solutions has so far sent out thousands of informational packages to people who own 30 acres or more. It’s offering to pay a flat $10 to sign people up. The prospect of making money would come from the extraction of methane and the storage of carbon. 

Ultimately, according to Southern Tier Solutions President Bryce Phillips, the goal is to lease 1 million acres. 

“That would be something to support 10 to 12 megawatt power plants, which would ordinarily produce enough power to, say, power the Micron chip factory that’s up near Syracuse,” he told Capital Tonight.

Phillips is marketing Southern Tier Solutions as a renewable energy project.

“At present, the plan is to produce the natural gas, but in a manner that that natural gas is converted to power and converted to power in a manner that doesn’t produce carbon dioxide in the fuel generation process,” he said. “It really belongs in that basket of renewables.”

Phillips wouldn’t say how many leases he’s sold, claiming the information is proprietary.

You can hear more from Phillips here on this Capitol Pressroom podcast from WCNY.

Investigative journalist and founder and editor of Waterfront, Peter Mantius, was the first to report on this story. covers environmental politics in the Finger Lakes.

According to Mantius, the technology that would be used by Southern Tier Solutions hasn’t been fully tested.

“There are only about a dozen of these direct-air capture plants in the world right now, and of that group, there’s an even smaller number that are actually involved in using carbon sequestration to do gas drilling as well — in other words, extract methane at the same time,” he told Capital Tonight.

There are also questions about whether Southern Tier Solutions’ proposal is practical.

“They are (initially) talking about trying to assemble between 30 and 50,000 acres [of land] to drill, which, under current state law is going to be challenging,” Mantius explained.

Under New York state’s compulsory integration law, if a driller can sign up 60% of the acres required, the other 40% are compelled to sign on.  

“Six hundred and forty acres is the standard size that the state now allows. [Southern Tier Solutions] is talking about 30,000 to 50,000 acres that they need. They need all of it. There are a number of holdouts in that group, so you have the prospect of legal challenges from people. The state would actually have to give waivers, I believe, to allow compulsory integration on anything that size,” said Mantius. 

When asked if he had been in touch with the state’s environmental regulator, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Phillips said he has only had some initial conversations. 

But Phillips has been in regular contact with the federal regulator. 

“EPA was extremely helpful, and we’ve had some productive conversations,” he said.

Southern Tier Solutions will be eligible for federal 45Q tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act.