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Working group to address methane capture at regional coal mines

Tackling the challenge

By Toni Todd

The Coal Mine Methane Working Group, a newly formed collaboration of representatives from Delta, Montrose and Gunnison counties and from the state of Colorado, held its first meeting on Tuesday, October 3 in Hotchkiss. Its primary mission is to find a way to capture and use the vast amounts of methane gas emanating from the North Fork Valley coal mining district near Somerset. That area releases more methane than any other place in the state.

Methane is a greenhouse gas, a source of global warming and contributor to climate change.

The group includes representatives from the offices of Senators Bennet and Gardner, State Representative Tipton, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, the Colorado Energy Office, the Department of Local Affairs, the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, the Gunnison County Electric Association, the Bowie Mine, the Oxbow Mine, the West Elk Mine, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, High Country Conservation Advocates, the Western Slope Conservation Center, Conservation Colorado, Gunnison County and Delta County.

County commissioner John Messner said the conversation focused primarily on the development of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would guide the mission, goals and objectives of the group and create a decision-making and organizational structure from which to tackle the challenge of capturing the methane.

“There was active participation by all involved,” said Messner, “and after word-smithing the document and refining the objectives, each representative has now taken it back to their organizations to get comment. The decision was made to reconvene the group in a month to further amend the MOU and hopefully ratify it, which will, in turn, allow the process to move forward.”

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