Press Release

For Immediate Release

June 9, 2023

Colorado Governor Polis Signs First of its Kind Climate Legislation into Law.

HB23-1069, Study Biochar in Plugging of Oil and Gas Wells will carve a path to plug orphan wells better while safely and permanently removing and sequestering carbon.


1. Janis Hallowell, 350 Colorado, 303-718-4633,

2. Jan Rose, Colorado Coalition for A Livable Climate, 303-653-6068,

June 9th, 2023 Denver, CO – HB23-1069, Study Biochar in Plugging of Oil and Gas Wells, sponsored by Colorado state representatives McCormick and Amabile and senators Cutter and Priola, was signed into law. The study, led by CSU, will begin July 1.

Passing with bipartisan enthusiasm, Study Biochar in Plugging of Oil and Gas Wells is the first legislation in the world to study and move toward implementation of a simple technology that promises a stronger, more durable well plug and a way to safely and permanently remove carbon from the world’s overloaded carbon cycle.

The study will be led by CSU’s Carbon Soil Science Center. An advisory group will be made up of representatives from: the oil and gas industry, biochar experts, COGCC, CEO, CDPHE, BLM, the forest service, the environmental community, disproportionally impacted communities and others.

Background information:

A 2020 Reuters investigation concluded that the 3.2 million orphaned and abandoned wells across the US emit 281,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere per year and that plugging wells will measurably decrease these emissions. Here is a very recent Inside Climate News article about a groundbreaking study on emissions from orphan wells.

Scientists believe the study will bear out that biochar in cement will make a stronger, more flexible plug and cap and biochar packed into the void of the well will help bind fugitive toxic emissions. They believe the study will show that between 10 and 130 tons of biochar can be used in each well. That translates to each well accounting for between 37 and 480 tons of CO2 equivalent taken permanently out of the world’s overloaded carbon cycle. Because it is a solid and inert, the carbon stored in spent oil and gas wells will never escape into the atmosphere as CO2. Applied to the 3.2 million wells across the Nation, scientists think roughly 1.5 billion tons CO2e can potentially be permanently and safely sequestered with biochar well plugging.

Scientists agree that plugging with biochar will significantly lower greenhouse gases from abandoned wells as with current methods but will add these additional benefits:

For more detailed information about the concept and technology, see this video.

Quote deck:

“Everyone agrees that we need to plug orphan oil and gas wells but still millions of orphans across the country sit open, emitting methane, benzene, heavy metals, and CO2. When wells do get plugged, the Portland cement often cracks and leaks and they keep emitting. This study is the start of plugging more and plugging better and Colorado is leading the way. Already other states are moving toward similar bills to begin oil and gas plugging with biochar. This is the beginning of a great clean-up effort which will be an important part of the transition from fossil fuels.

— Janis Hallowell, Board of Directors, 350 Colorado,

HB23-1069 bill originator

“Using biochar to plug end-of-life oil & gas wells in Colorado is win-win-win. It removes dead trees from Colorado forests that would otherwise be emitting carbon and methane as they decompose, provides a proven method of carbon sequestration–as opposed to other more speculative schemes—and it reduces the amount of carbon-intensive cement currently used in well plugging operations while at the same time absorbing harmful hydrocarbons and pollutants that are known to leak from abandoned wells.”

— Jan Rose, Legislative Analyst, Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate

“I’m thrilled to see the Colorado State Legislature moving forward with studying the multiple benefits provided by using biochar to plug abandoned oil and gas wells and hope other states will follow suit. The rapidly growing demand for biochar based carbon removal credits is outpacing demand for biochar at the moment so this market could help the industry to scale up to a size where it can have a material impact on rebalancing atmospheric carbon, by both sequestering carbon and reducing fugitive methane emissions.”

—Kathleen Draper, Board Chair, International Biochar Initiative

“Plugging fracked oil and gas wells with biochar is a clever solution for safely and effectively sequestering carbon in solid form underground to help with the climate crisis, while also helping to clean up the toxic mess being left behind by the oil and gas industry. With over 55,000 producing and 50,000 non-producing oil and gas wells around the state that could be plugged with biochar, this can provide meaningful jobs as Colorado and the Nation transition beyond fossil fuels to clean renewable energy.”

— Micah Parkin, Executive Director, 350 Colorado

“This legislation is truly a first of its kind, and it has the potential to be replicated beyond Colorado in nearly a dozen states. where orphan wells are located in great numbers. It could also influence the way in which the federal government specifies and funds well plugging over the short and longer term. Also, in addition to directly addressing the orphan well challenge, the application supported through this policy can help catalyze supply for biochar across a variety of other use cases, from soil amendments to boost agricultural productivity, to the use of the material in common construction materials such as concrete. In this sense, a gateway is being built to support biochar growth more generally.”

—Chris Neidl, Co-founder, OpenAir Collective

“The potential uses for biochar are vast and the consideration of the use of biochar in plugging of oil and gas wells is an exciting new prospect. We have large amounts of a supply source here in Colorado with acres of pine beetle killed trees that need to be removed for fire mitigation. We have a large number of retired oil and gas wells. Pairing the two through biochar creates the potential for a great partnership for a fossil fuel industry to be part of helping to permanently sequester carbon from the carbon cycle. I was proud to carry this first of its kind piece of legislation and look forward to the next steps that may come from the study.”

— Representative Karen McCormick – Colorado House District 11

“If this study shows that using biochar in well plugging can prevent leakage of methane while at the same time putting carbon in the ground and keeping it there that would be a game changer. And not a moment too soon.”

— Heidi Leathwood, Climate Policy Analyst, 350 Colorado