Federal funds will help determine what to do with methane leaking from Redstone’s Coal Basin
$1.2 million awarded to CORE in appropriations bill
A project that aims to determine how to solve methane leaks from abandoned mines in Coal Basin west of Redstone stands to get a $1.2 million boost in federal funds, according to Colorado’s two U.S. senators.
The proposed appropriations bills include funding for the Community Office for Resource Efficiency for “coal mine methane solutions,” according to separate announcements made Thursday from Sen. Michael Bennet and Sen. John Hickenlooper.
The U.S. House passed the 2022 federal omnibus appropriations bills Wednesday night. The bills are “expected to pass the Senate in the coming days,” Hickenlooper’s office said.
Five mines with numerous portals in Coal Basin leak enough methane to make them responsible for one third to one half of Pitkin County’s total contribution to global warming, said Chris Caskey, a Paonia-based scientist who is helping CORE assess the problem and design a solution. Methane is considered a particularly potent greenhouse gas.
Caskey and CORE officials have determined there are three courses of action — do nothing, burn off the methane or harness it to produce electricity.
“I’m a climate guy, so (doing nothing) is not an option for me,” Caskey said.
His favored approach would be to plug the mines as much as feasible, insert a pipe into a prime portal and transport the methane to an electric generating plant.
Aspen Skiing Co. and partners invested in such a system at the West Elk Mine near Paonia. The electricity generated offsets Skico’s energy needs at its four ski areas.
Recreating Skico’s effort in Coal Basin faces numerous regulatory and financial challenges, as Aspen Journalism outlined in a story that was published in The Aspen Times in October.
However, the $1.2 million in federal funds will help create a feasibility plan, said Mona Newton, the former executive director of CORE who is now a consultant working with the organization on the Coal Basin project.
In essence, she said, the funding will help determine the quantity and quality of gas and help determine the best way to “destroy it.”
The funds will be used for public outreach and demonstration projects. Two public meetings will be held this spring to discuss the issue. The first will be March 31 at the Third Street Center in Carbondale from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The second will be at Propaganda Pies restaurant in Redstone on April 8 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
“This project has been talked about for a number of years,” Newton said. “I call it a complex project.”
She said she was grateful that Colorado’s senators viewed the project as important enough to secure money for it. And she is hopeful the project will remain important enough to secure funding from a variety of sources once a course of proposed action is determined.
The Coal Basin project was one of 64 across Colorado that stand to gain $100 million in funding, according to Hickenlooper and Bennet.
Others of regional interest are $1 million to the city of Glenwood Springs for the South Bridge project; $285,000 to Valley Settlement for the El Busesito Preschool Program buses, which are used in the Roaring Fork and Lower Colorado River valleys; and $1.2 million for the Eagle County Regional Transportation Authority for bus facilities and EV charging infrastructure.
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