Possible new rule would target methane from existing mining operations
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — While federal efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions are still up in the air due to political and legal uncertainty, the Bureau of Land Management is taking public on a possible new rule to tackle heat-trapping methane from coal mining operations. In a prepared statement announcing the outreach effort, BLM officials said that reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change.
“We welcome public input on ways in which we can both increase mine safety and improve the health of our environment,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “We will work with federal, state and local officials as well as with industry and nongovernmental organizations to explore ways to responsibly reduce methane emissions,”
Kornze said after the agency posted a Federal Register notice to solicit comments on establishing a program that would allow the capture, use, sale, or destruction of waste mine methane from Federal coal leases and, Federal leases for other solid minerals.
Methane that is released as a direct result of mining operations is known as waste mine methane. The authority for the BLM to address the capture, use, or destruction of waste mine methane across 700 million acres of Federal mineral estate comes from the Mineral Leasing Act. When released into the mining environment, waste mine methane can pose a significant safety threat for underground miners in operations where the methane may concentrate in underground workings to explosive levels.
In his Climate Action Plan, President Obama directed government agencies to develop a comprehensive, strategy to cut methane emissions. Taking action to curb methane waste and pollution is important because emissions of methane make up nearly 9 percent of all the greenhouse gas emitted as a result of human activity in the United States. Since 1990, methane pollution in the United States has decreased by 11 percent, even as activities that can produce methane have increased. However, methane pollution is projected to increase to a level equivalent to over 620 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution in 2030 absent additional action to reduce emissions.
Methane can be removed from coal and other underground mines using several methods: draining methane from the mineral deposit before or during mining operations; draining gas from closed or mined out areas; or using fans to dilute and ventilate methane from mine areas.
The new notice asks for comment on technologies for the capture, use, sale or destruction of waste mine methane, and also seeks comment on the economics of reducing mine waste emissions. The 60-day comment period closes June 30, 2014. Visit this Federal Register page to get more information on commenting.