"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.”
The BLM published in the Federal Register an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) 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 the Administration to develop a comprehensive, interagency strategy to cut methane emissions. In March, the White House released a Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions that builds on progress to date and takes steps to further cut methane emissions from landfills, coal mining, and agriculture, and oil and gas systems through cost-effective voluntary actions and common-sense standards. By publishing the ANPR, the BLM is addressing one of the opportunities to reduce domestic methane emissions identified in the strategy. Learn more about the Strategy here.
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 ANPR asks for comment on technologies for the capture, use, sale or destruction of waste mine methane. The ANPR also seeks comment on the economics of reducing mine waste emissions.
The 60-day comment period closes June 30, 2014.