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CREA Continues Push to Pass Coal Mine Methane Bill

April 28, 2012

When H.B. 12-1160 was first introduced in the Colorado General Assembly back in late January, CREA supported it because, well, it’s a no-brainer. The bill would include methane gas from coal mines as an eligible resource under Colorado’s renewable portfolio standard, and by doing so would encourage the development of projects that will convert some of the methane that now escapes into the atmosphere into a useful commodity, electricity.

These projects and the bill that would encourage them are a win-win-win for Colorado: more jobs, more local energy production, and more environmental benefits (in announcing its new rules to reduce air pollution related to the fracking process, EPA noted last week that “Methane, when released directly to the atmosphere, is a potent greenhouse gas – more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.”)

So the bill must be sailing through the legislative process, right? Well, no. With just about ten days left in the session, the bill is stuck in the Colorado Senate, the victim of political wrangling and arguments by some in the environmental community that it will somehow impede the further development of the more traditional renewable resources such as wind and solar.

It’s hard to take that argument seriously.  Xcel Energy now has approximately 1,700 MW of capacity of wind generation in their Colorado generation portfolio. On top of that, they have several hundred MW of customer-sited and utility-scale solar generation. The total amount of power from methane projects that are likely to be developed in the next few years if H.B. 12-116- passes is in the range of 5 – 25 MW. Hardly a threat to big wind and solar.

CREA proposed an amendment to the bill this week that would cap the total development of coal mine methane projects at 50 MW. We are hopeful that both the House and Senate sponsors can accept that compromise and that the Senate leadership will bring the bill forward for a vote.

At the committee hearing in the House on the bill, Randy Udall, one of Colorado’s most rational and passionate environmentalists, noted how the greenhouse gas benefits of H.B. 12-1160 would exceed all of the solar generation installed in Colorado to date. It will be a real shame if the legislature is unable to stop the partisan bickering and pass a common-sense bill that will benefit Colorado’s economy and environment.


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