Colorado, USA


Signed into law in May 2023, HB 23-1210 includes two main components. First, the act amends the eligibility criteria for an existing, 6-year $25 million industrial and manufacturing operations clean air grant program to include carbon management projects. However, agricultural and forestry projects are excluded from eligibility, and  enhanced oil recovery projects are also prohibited.

Second, it allocates public funding for the completion of a comprehensive technoeconomic analysis, or ‘road map’ for carbon management advancement in Colorado. Carbon management is defined as “any combination of carbon dioxide removal, carbon storage, carbon capture, and carbon utilization.”

The scope of the roadmap will include:

  • Specified economic sectors;
  • Necessary infrastructure to support carbon management;
  • Specified types of policies and incentives;
  • Identification of the state agency best positioned to carry out a potential policy regime of carbon management;
  • Public interest, legislative, and
  • Administrative policy recommendations; and criteria for carbon management project selection.

The completion of the roadmap will be collaboratively directed by the office of economic development, and the department of public health and environment. An independent organization will be contracted by the implementing departments to complete the roadmap. At least one public hearing will be conducted once the initial version is presented; and recommendations and feedback gained from the hearing will be incorporated. Upon completion the roadmap will be presented to specified committees in the general assembly, and its recommendations will be considered for legislative action.

Politics Note

HB 23-1210 was intnroduced and passed in the General Assembly, and signed into law by the Governor in a single legislative sessio. This outcome is rare for novel areas of policy related to subject thats are highly politically contested and for which support or opposition commonly breaks along sharp partisan lines. The legislation garnered no Republican support; but, significantly, neither did it arouse strong opposition from the minority party. The most vocal resistance came from local grassroots environmental advocates who expressed concerns about safety, costs and potential moral hazards that could impede progress in other critical areas related to decarbonization. The passage of this act is politically significant because it represents a substantive policy development for carbon removal in a Western state of the United States. In recent years Colorado, under moderate Democrat governors and Democrat majorities in the General Assembly, has enacted a series of climate-related laws. These laws align Colorado more closely on climate with a small number of 'coastal blue' states in other regions of the country - most notably California, Washington, New York and Massachusetts, than with any of its immediate neighbors (with the. possible exception of New Mexico). A possible consequence of this trend in the longer term could be greater elevation of carbon management and removal policy in the wider region, and among surrounding states that are on one hand, politically more conservative, but also endowed with distinct resource advantages that are highly conducive to large scale carbon removal and storage. Could Colorado provide a template for carbon removal policy strategy and justification for peer states in the region that is more politically and economically acceptable than those on offer from those coastal states that have traditionally set the standard?

Replicability & Adaptation Potential

HB 23-2021 is not the most ambitious carbon removal policy proposed by a state to date. But it's worth stressing that it is now law, unlike other more comprehensive state bills that have been introduced but not yet enacted in New York, California and Massachusetts. The combination of policies in this law - a roadmap to inform future legislation, and extended grant eligibility - could represent a viable first foray into carbon removal for a broad category of states that have not historically led on climate policy, let alone carbon removal policy. The Colorado experience demonstrates clear strategic advantages of fiscally modest and politically uncontroversial bills such as HB 23-2021. First, a bill like this clearly has the potential to succeed politically in a short timeframe. Second, advocacy for legislation of this scope does a lot of heavy lifting to establish a baseline level of understanding and acceptance among policymakers, creating more conducive conditions for more ambitious proposals in the future.