Pressure on coal mines to reduce greenhouse gases

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Environmental groups and agencies are pushing for Colorado coal mines to reduce greenhouse gases by capturing the methane released during mining.

Environmental officials are proposing that the mines capture methane released during coal mining so that it’s burned off or used as fuel.

Federal data project that mines in western Colorado will release as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere every year as 11/2 coal-burning power plants.

“We are looking to manage significant environmental impacts,” Paul Tourangeau, director of the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division, told The Denver Post in Saturday’s editions.

Methane traps 20 times more heat than carbon dioxide released from burning coal and other fossil fuels.

“Controlling methane is going to be a big part of controlling greenhouse gases,” said Jeremy Nichols, director of WildEarth Guardian’s climate program.

In western Colorado, the West Elk Mine in Somerset and the proposed Red Cliff Mine near Mack, are under pressure to reduce greenhouse emissions and capture methane because the federal land they’re on is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

State and federal government organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Natural Resources, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are calling for the BLM to demand methane capture at the mines.

Environmental groups have filed a complaint in federal court over a BLM decision to allow West Elk to vent methane. The groups also want Red Cliff to capture methane at its mine.

Despite the pressure to capture methane, mining officials say the technology to do it is not yet available.

“We are caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Corey Heaps, the project manager for Red Cliff.

Methane degassification can cost millions of dollars, said Pam Franklin, the EPA’s director of the Coalbed Methane Outreach program.

The mines that are capturing methane are doing it for safety reasons, to reduce the risk of methane explosions, she said.