A cli­mate-wreck­ing meth­ane bomb near Pao­nia

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By Jake Black and Chris Daven­port

Lo­cated near Pao­nia, the Sun­set Road­less Area is a wild land­scape of aspen glades, beaver ponds and spruce-fir forests en­joyed by hik­ers, an­glers, hun­ters and back­coun­try skiers. Home to abun­dant wildlife, this 1,700-acre patch of pub­lic land is now ground zero for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­fort to ex­pand coal min­ing in Colorado — with dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences for our cli­mate, en­vi­ron­ment and out­door recre­ation econ­omy. If we fail to stop this plan, vast amounts of nat­u­ral gas — meth­ane — owned by all Amer­i­cans will pour into our at­mos­phere, rep­re­sent­ing a colos­sal waste of tax­payer dol­lars.

At is­sue is the pro­posed ex­pan­sion of the West Elk Mine, which is owned by St. Louis-based Arch Coal, one of the na­tion’s largest coal min­ing com­pa­nies. Arch wants to dig up an es­ti­mated 17.6 mil­lion tons of coal with its ex­pan­sion in the Gun­ni­son Na­tional For­est, where the Sun­set Road­less Area is lo­cated.

In June, the For­est Ser­vice re­leased a draft en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact study and pro­posal that, if im­ple­mented, would al­low Arch to bull­doze 6 miles of roads, drill ex­ploratory wells and erect up to 48 meth­ane drainage wells. For those who are un­fa­mil­iar, meth­ane drainage wells are one of the coal in­dus­try’s most waste­ful and cli­mate-wreck­ing dirty se­crets.

Pow­ered by noisy gen­er­a­tors that groan 24/7, these wells suck nat­u­ral gas — meth­ane — out of coal beds to pre­vent mine ex­plo­sions. That makes sense. What makes no sense, how­ever, is that Arch would be al­lowed to pump this meth­ane di­rectly into the at­mos­phere. The West Elk Mine has al­ready been Colorado’s largest sin­gle emit­ter of meth­ane due to its ex­ist­ing drainage wells that vent this pow­er­ful green­house gas into the at­mos­phere.

This is a ripoff to tax­pay­ers who own that meth­ane and a catas­tro­phe for our cli­mate. Coal mines in many coun­tries col­lect meth­ane and use it to pro­duce en­ergy, but due to lax fed­eral laws, loop­holes and sub­si­dies, U.S. coal mines op­er­at­ing on pub­lic lands can vent meth­ane with no penalty. It de­fies logic and com­mon sense.

As pro­fes­sional ath­letes, we are deeply con­cerned with the im­pacts of cli­mate change, con­sid­er­ing we have con­sis­tently wit­nessed snow­pack de­cline. With our fel­low Colorado ath­letes and cli­mate ac­tivists Gretchen Bleiler, Cody Cir­illo, Benji Far­row, Arielle Gold, Simi Hamil­ton, Dakota Jones, Eric Larsen and Meg Olenick, we urge Gov. John Hick­en­looper to op­pose this mine ex­pan­sion and, at the very least, to en­sure the wasted meth­ane is cap­tured.

Be­cause the West Elk Mine is lo­cated on fed­eral pub­lic lands, Hick­en­looper does not have the au­thor­ity to can­cel or mod­ify ots pro­posed ex­pan­sion. But we hope he can con­vince the For­est Ser­vice and Bu­reau of Land Man­age­ment to re­quire that Arch cap­ture and col­lect rather than vent this project’s meth­ane.

Colorado has some of the na­tion’s strong­est rules for reg­u­lat­ing meth­ane pol­lu­tion from oil and gas drilling. These reg­u­la­tions, how­ever, do not ap­ply to coal mines. As a re­sult, this mine ex­pan­sion would ef­fec­tively nul­lify many of the gains Colorado has made in clean­ing up oil and gas drilling.

Coal in­dus­try sup­port­ers call this mine ex­pan­sion a job cre­ator. We find this disin­gen­u­ous. Abun­dant snow and healthy pub­lic lands, not dirty coal, are Colorado’s most im­por­tant cur­ren­cies. Colorado gets more than 12.6 mil­lion skier vis­its per win­ter that gen­er­ate $4.8 bil­lion in eco­nomic im­pact and pro­vide more than 46,000 jobs. Clean en­ergy com­pa­nies em­ploy 62,000 Coloradans, and just one wind tur­bine man­u­fac­turer, Ves­tas, em­ploys nearly 4,000 peo­ple in the state. By com­par­i­son, Colorado has about 1,100 coal min­ing jobs statewide. Clean en­ergy is the fu­ture, coal the past.

We im­plore con­cerned cit­i­zens to con­tact Hick­en­looper’s of­fice, to call and write their mem­bers of Congress, and to sub­mit com­ments to the For­est Ser­vice op­pos­ing this dirty project.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.