Over the last decade, many energy experts have supported carbon sequestration as a viable technological response to climate change. Given the potential importance of sequestration in US energy policy, what might explain the views of communities that may be directly impacted by the siting of this technology? To answer this question, we conducted focus groups in two communities who were potentially pilot project sites for California’s DOE-funded West Coast Regional Partnership (WESTCARB). We find that communities want a voice in defining the risks to be mitigated as well as the justice of the procedures by which the technology is implemented. We argue that a community’s sense of empowerment is key to understanding its range of carbon sequestration opinions, where ’empowerment’ includes the ability to mitigate community-defined risks of the technology. This sense of empowerment protects the community against the downside risk of government or corporate neglect, a risk that is rarely identified in risk assessments but that should be factored into assessment and communication strategies.