Green group urges capture of methane

While national environmental organizations tussle with Oxbow Mining over its plans to expand the Elk Creek Mine, a North Fork Valley organization declined to oppose the expansion.

Coal from the region has a low sulfur content that helps power plants reduce sulfur-based air pollution and meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act, said Rob Peters, executive director of the NFRIA-WSERC Conservation Center in Paonia.

“From a national perspective it doesn’t make sense to take actions that could shut our local mines while allowing continued operation by mines elsewhere that are worse from an environmental point of view, including those that produce high-sulfur coal or that use mountain-top removal or strip mining,” Peters wrote in an email.

The conservation center did ask the federal government to consider requiring Oxbow to capture and use methane from the mine. At a minimum, Peters said, the methane should be flared off rather than be released into the atmosphere.

Methane is considered by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to have 20 times the heat-trapping capacity of carbon dioxide.

Because of that and because methane has a commercial value, the conservation center is asking North Fork Valley mines to capture the gas and federal agencies to consider requiring that the gas be captured from new leases or lease expansions.

“Even if there were a net cost to the mines, if the government required the mines to capture the methane, this would be no different in principle than current requirements that the mines spend money for other types of pollution control or environmental mitigation, such as treating wastewater or reclaiming disturbed land,” Peters wrote.

The acronyms in the name of the center refer to the North Fork River Improvement Association and the Western Slope Environmental Resource Council, which merged in August.


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