The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued rules in October of last year requiring certain industries to report the amount of greenhouse gases they emit. Now, the agency has added underground coal mines to that list of industries. Beginning in January of 2011, mine operators will have to track and later report how much methane they emit. Methane is 21 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide, and to prevent it from building up underground, mine operators release it into the atmosphere. But EPA Climate Change Division spokeswoman Pamela Franklin says that methane can be put to use.
“There’s a lot of potential uses for the methane that’s recovered. It can be used primarily in the U.S. it’s used for injection into the natural gas pipeline system. It can also be used for electricity, or for onsite purposes like drying coal or like heating the incoming mine ventilation air,” said Franklin.
The EPA will be offering training for mine operators. It’s possible some of those sessions will be in Kentucky or other coal-producing parts of Appalachia. Kentucky is the nation’s third largest coal producer, with most mines in the state being underground.