Colorado is solidifying a commitment to reduce emissions made in the state’s latest Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap by developing and implementing strategies to reach net zero. The state’s ambitious and binding goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050, all below its 2005 levels, require comprehensive climate action, including strategies to decarbonize its industrial sector. To help achieve its goal, Colorado created a diverse CCUS Task Force (CCUS stands for carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration) to research CCUS, engage community members, and provide recommendations to state policy makers.
The Great Plains Institute, as part of our work through the Regional Carbon Capture Deployment Initiative, is assisting the Colorado Energy Office in advising the CCUS Task Force. The task force includes representatives from environmental NGOs, industry, academia, labor, and state government.
We recently discussed the task force with members and state officials who shared their perspectives on its importance and approach, community engagement opportunities, and what to expect in their upcoming report.
Report to highlight CCUS opportunities, challenges, and resource needs
The task force is drafting a comprehensive report on the existing opportunities, challenges, and resources needed for CCUS deployment in Colorado with members working in five subcommittees: opportunities, resources, issues to consider, environmental justice impacts and opportunities, and recommendations.
Michael Turner, director of building innovation and energy finance for the Colorado Energy Office, explained that the broader goals for the report are to address key carbon capture questions and develop an action plan. Turner stated that “the Task Force will report back to the Governor with a recommended framework, including policies and actions for pursuing CCUS that are aligned with Colorado’s emissions reduction targets.”
A CCUS Task Force member, Katie Schneer, a High Meadows Fellow of Subnational Climate Policy for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), emphasized the urgency of meeting Colorado’s climate goals, noting, “EDF is participating in the Task Force because Colorado is currently off track from meeting its looming GHG emission reduction requirements in 2025, 2030, and 2050.” This reality heightens the need for emissions-reducing technologies like carbon capture.
One area where Colorado can use CCUS to make significant progress towards its climate goals is the industrial sector. The state has the potential to capture nearly 1 million megatonnes of carbon dioxide from its yearly industrial emissions. The report will outline steps to equitably implement carbon management technologies—in the industrial sector and other areas—that are needed to meet Colorado’s established climate and energy requirements.
Incorporating opportunities for community engagement during the report drafting process will help ensure the state places equity at the forefront of future CCUS policies and projects. The task force hopes to facilitate engagement and encourage community feedback by providing the public with an opportunity to review the draft report recommendations online.
The Colorado Energy Office, in coordination with the Colorado School of Mines, will also hold a public session on November 3, 2021, from 6–8 pm MT.
Jock Tuttle, technical specialist of the Building Innovation and Energy Finance division of Colorado’s Energy Office underscored the importance of community engagement, stating that “for CCUS to play a truly beneficial role in a decarbonized future, community engagement and input is critical to the planning and decision-making process. The CCUS Task Force is focused on creating community engagement pathways and frameworks to ensure the conversation includes communities that would potentially be most impacted.”
A collaborative process
Kourtney Hadrick, operating director of energy for the Southern Ute Growth Fund, emphasized why a collaborative process is critical to the Task Force’s success, saying, “meeting energy demand for safe, reliable, affordable and carbon-neutral energy for the future will take a collaborative effort amongst numerous stakeholders.”
Hadrick, a member of both the opportunities and environmental justice subcommittees of the task force, continued, “the CCUS Task Force has initiated dialogue between the State, industry, academia, environmental NGOs, labor, and tribal entities to identify opportunities that could provide energy solutions that extend beyond geographic borders. A collaborative process open to all resources and possibilities including CCUS will be instrumental in overcoming the energy challenges of the future.”
Subcommittee members are meeting virtually to evaluate and support the task force’s research about the feasibility of deploying CCUS projects that will help meet the state’s decarbonization requirements. Jock Tuttle explained, “by evaluating the current opportunities, resources and issues to consider for CCUS in the State, we hope to better understand and communicate the current landscape in Colorado, what opportunities and challenges exist, and what actions are recommended to be taken.”
As carbon capture has not been deployed extensively in Colorado, the task force has prioritized bringing environmental justice concerns and equity to the forefront of the report drafting process. “A section specifically on environmental justice and CCUS was included to demonstrate that it’s a priority for the State and the Task Force and to ensure early input from key community stakeholders,” explained Tuttle.
Historically, environmental justice communities have borne the brunt of harmful air pollution and have had few opportunities to provide input throughout planning processes – including no representation on this CCUS task force. Katie Schneer, currently working on the environmental justice subcommittee, highlighted the importance of this deficiency, saying, “Colorado has clear obligations to cut both GHG emissions and locally harmful air pollution. If the state chooses to pursue CCUS as a tool to reduce GHG emissions, it must ensure robust environmental integrity and must center disproportionately impacted communities at every step of the way.”
Finalizing the report
Following the public session, task force members will incorporate suggestions into the report and begin the finalization process. The report is due on December 31, 2021. According to Michael Turner, the report will “identify CCUS opportunities and challenges in the state and provide instructive next steps for policy makers.” The included recommendations will advise Colorado on potential planning and investment decisions consistent with its climate and energy requirements.
This blog was originally published by Great Plains Institute.