A Colorado-based company wants to make money flaring methane from Utah coal to generate environmental credits that would be sold to other companies looking to comply with California’s cap-and-trade system.
Confused yet? This is the type of convoluted project incentivized by Golden State global warming policies.
The Colorado-based Global Carbon Strategies’s plan to burn off methane vented from the West Ridge coal mine in Utah, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. The company would flare up to 400,000 million British thermal units over the next five years and sell the emissions “offsets” to California companies. The project has yet to be approved by state regulators.
Coal mines, like West Ridge, sit atop methane pockets that are vented out of the mine for safety reasons. Methane is a 25-times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas regulated under California’s cap-and-trade system.
Here’s where it gets a little confusing. California’s cap-and-trade program to fight global warming could allow companies to burn off methane to instead emit carbon dioxide and a slew of traditional air pollutants.
Since the net greenhouse gas emissions from flaring are less, it counts as a carbon offset. Global Carbon Strategies can then sell those offsets to California companies forced to buy them under state law.
“Instead of just venting methane, we are spending money to generate offsets,” Global Carbon Strategies vice president Collon Kennedy told The Tribune. “It’s a pro-business thing. Instead of a regulatory requirement, we are giving you an economic incentive.”
Think of it this way. California is basically subsidizing a company to burn off methane while producing no energy whatsoever.
It’s ironic since the Obama administration spent years pushing policies to crack down on flaring from oil and gas wells across the country. The Interior Department finalized a controversial flaring rule for public lands in 2016, which they claimed would “cut flaring in half at oil wells on public and tribal lands.”
Environmentalists also don’t seem on board with the mine project.
“This is a total scam, and it’s just another example of how California fundamentally does not understand coal mines and the nature of coal mine regulation,” Jeremy Nichols with WildEarth Guardians told The Tribune.
“But the real issue is, why in the hell do state and federal regulators allow coal mines, both active and inactive, to just vent methane willy-nilly?” Nichols said.
The West Ridge coal mine is owned by Murray Energy and has been idle since 2015. The mine is considered one of the “gassiest” in the western U.S., according to The Tribune. It’s one of several methane-rich idle mines in Utah.
Murray energy tried capturing methane from the mine in 2007, but technical issues hampered the project before it was abandoned entirely. Mines may not be able to pipe methane for energy use because of technical limits or favorable economics.
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