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SOURCE: Climate Change News

DATE: August 13, 2018

SNIP: Climate Home News analysis of government data has identified roughly 300 active and 200 abandoned coal mines, which are the source of almost one-tenth of US methane pollution.

Methane has 34 times the long-term warming effect of carbon dioxide and accounts for 10% of US greenhouse gas emissions. Its emissions from the oil and gas industry and the efforts of the Trump administration to roll back regulations on them have been widely publicised.

Meanwhile, US coal mines released 60.5 MMTCO2e of methane in 2016, with roughly the same warming impact as 13 million cars. Efforts to control the problem are being hampered despite those with the technical expertise claiming a whole industry could be built on capturing these emissions and turning them into electricity.

The data shows many of the most gaseous abandoned mines are in Kentucky and West Virginia and belonged to large operators such as Alpha Natural Resources, which also did not respond to requests for comment, and Alliance Resource Partners. Sealing shafts and allowing abandoned mines to flood can significantly decrease methane emissions.

Even as US coal production has plummeted over the past decade, and the number of active mines halved, coal mine methane emissions fell at a much slower pace, EPA data published in April shows. This indicates mines are not being fully sealed as they shut down.

The EPA estimates that by 2020 coal mines will release methane with the equivalent warming impact of 166 coal-fired power plants. China, the world’s largest emitter, will account for nearly 53% of these emissions, while US mines will release the second most at 10.5%.