Chuck McConnell: Common sense?


Opportunities to substantially reduce emissions of so-called “greenhouse gases” and at the same time promote private-sector investment and create new jobs are rare. On Feb. 13, I watched just such an opportunity squandered in a state Senate committee hearing room in Denver.

Senate Bill 13-003, introduced by District 8 Sen. Randy Baumgardner, would have provided for the elimination of millions of cubic feet of methane (natural gas) that now escapes every year into the atmosphere from abandoned coal mines near Paonia. The coal mine methane would have been burned to generate electricity. Those fearful of global warming think methane and carbon dioxide significantly contribute to warming. The EPA says methane’s heat-trapping properties are 21 times greater than carbon dioxide.

Senate Bill 003 simply would have allowed renewable energy credits to Colorado electric cooperatives purchasing the electricity from the coal mine methane to help them meet their state-mandated minimum requirements. There would be no cost to Colorado taxpayers.

Construction and operation of the methane gathering and electric generation facility would have resulted in private-sector capital investment and new jobs.

I testified Feb. 13 before the Senate’s State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee at the Capitol in favor of passing SB 003. At the end of my testimony I asked the committee how this bill could not be treated favorably given the tons of methane it would eliminate from the atmosphere. To me, passage made common sense.

The bill was killed by the committee along strict party lines, with three votes rejecting it and two voting in favor.

Recently in Routt County, fear was raised by those fighting against oil well drilling that tiny wisps of methane might escape from drilling and production operations. Others have argued that Americans should eat less beef due to the methane released by cows. Senate Bill 003 would have eliminated thousands of times more methane than could possibly have resulted from drilling operations or herds of cattle.

Our elected representatives had an excellent opportunity to promote job creation, private-sector investment and significantly remove methane from the environment with no cost to taxpayers by supporting Sen. Baumgardner’s bill, and they rejected it. Where is the common sense?

Chuck McConnell

Steamboat Springs


Steve Lewis 4 years, 1 month ago

Chuck, You make a great point. Leaking abandoned mines and wells are a huge environmental problem. The leaking methane you point to should definitely be captured and burned to generate energy. It makes complete sense to build the generating facility.

What is stopping them?


Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

Just looked up the bill. The bill declared electricity from the captured methane as counting as renewable energy.

Methane from coal mines is not a source of renewable energy.

The distinction is important because subsidies and customer preferences make renewable energy more valuable than normal electricity. Calling electricity from coal methane as renewable would cause issues for many customers that wish to buy genuine renewable energy.

The methane should be captured, but it shouldn't be classified as renewable energy.


Mike Isaac 4 years, 1 month ago

So Randy comes up with a good idea to eliminate greenhouse gases leaking from a old mine site in Paonia and turn those greenhouse gases also known methane into very cheap electricity at no cost to the tax payers and it gets shot down by the Dems. One would think that this would not be a party or Western Slope VS the Denver- Colo Spgs metro area issue and the bill would end up on the Governors desk with ALL voting YES. And why play word games just call it Electricity. Its kinda funny living in Routt county where no one is left in the dark about where are power comes from. I hope when the BILL making GMO foods being labeled as such, come up for a vote our reps in Denver stick together and ignore pressure from the White House and the Monsanto cronies working in DC


Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

I am not sure why a reclaimed mine is allow to emit so much methane without violating its permit.

I note that this attempt to classify capturing leaking methane as renewable energy was proposed by someone that is opposed to the State's renewable energy program and the bill was opposed by supporters of renewable energy.

If capturing methane from abandoned coal mines is a good idea then so is capturing methane leaking from natural gas wells. Reducing pollution is a good idea, but it doesn't mean it is creating renewable energy.


Leellen Koroulis 4 years, 1 month ago

Unfortunately, party affiliation and the environmental/energy ideology of the majority leaders in the Colorado Senate prevailed over common sense. Any measure that can be taken to reduce the amount of methane escaping from any mine anywhere into our atmosphere should be taken. The opportunity to generate electricity and add jobs to the private sector are an added bonus. Methane is 21 times more potent a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide but, the proposal by Senator Baumgardner didn't fit the 'environmentalist ' narrative. The fact that this bill was assigned to the Senate’s State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee makes me wonder if the vote may have been counted before you ever testified.


mark hartless 4 years, 1 month ago

It goes way beyond "idealogy".

Environmentalism has become one of the foremost religion of the western world and the religion of choice for modern atheists.

It has all the tennents of most major religion. The world as it was before pollution is "Eden". The fall from grace is "pollution" which is "sin".

Judgement day is now "Climate Change" or "Global Warming

"Sustainability" is salvation in the Church of the Holy Environment.

It even has "communion" in the form of pesticide-free organic food.

Why would anyone be surprised when these folks reject sensible measures like burning otherwise wasted gas?

They let oil sit under our ground while paying terrorists for it.

They would rather see a forest die than logged.

Why all the surprise???


jerry carlton 4 years, 1 month ago

Who ever said politicians of any party had " common sense"? All 95%of them are interested in is power and lining their own pockets.


doug monger 4 years, 1 month ago

I couldn't agree more about how frustrating this all is. I agree with the comments about the concept that we need to support all activity that is environmentally friendly. Unfortunately the environmentalists don't agree with that concept, we wouldn't want to have any other type of environmentally friendly type of energy compete and or conflict with the environmentalists sacrificial COW of wind and solar energy. It truly reflects on how much subsidy that this cow needs to be fed to be competitive in the world wide energy market (not to even mention the concept of being competitive with the carbon and coal energy). I lobbied at the County Commissioners meeting in Denver on this bill as well as another bill that I will also talk about in a minute. A new commissioner from another county flat out said that if we allow this it will reduce the viability of wind and solar. One has to wonder what the real goal of this all is, is it environmentally friendly or is it only a wind and solar captive market The second bill that was also killed during this whole fiasco was a bill that communities in Southeast Colorado wanted to support in that it created energy off of municipal trash. This bill would simply allow the process to be qualified as green and eligible for the Renewable Energy Credit thereby allowing some form of additional cash flow. Without the additional cash flow, the process does not pencil out, so we continue to put more trash in the ground and no benefit to the community or the environment. This process was some sort of process that did not even require burning or anything yet had the opportunity to reduce our landfill impacts and provide electricity. On top of that the end result/byproduct of the process would be put on Ag fields to provide nutrients/fertilizer. That bill was also killed on a party line vote the same week. I don't disagree that these two products are not Renewable, but maybe we need to change the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) to an Environmentally Sound Energy Credit (ESEC) and reduce the captive position of subsidized energy. Doug Monger


Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago


That's a good idea - create a new category of Environmentally Beneficial Energy.

But you cannot call clearly not renewable energy as renewable energy. Some businesses purchase renewable energy as part of their PR and they will stop buying it if it not renewable.

And renewable is a definition that can be met by wave generation on large lakes and whatever meets the definition of renewable.


Mike Isaac 4 years, 1 month ago

I lobbied at the County Commissioners meeting in Denver on this bill as well as another bill that I will also talk about in a minute. A new commissioner from another county flat out said that if we allow this it will reduce the viability of wind and solar.

Doug who is this fool that made the above statement? A former Solindra employee? I think the problem with this bill for the Green/Greed movement is there was No Tax Payer Funds or more to the point No Corporate Welfare for Big Wind and Solar. But that is what makes this bill so good.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

"if we allow this it will reduce the viability of wind and solar"

Well, are you interested in learning whom said that to point out the official that understands economics and free markets? That thankfully there was someone in government that understands markets and branding. That there was someone smart enough to realize that if you have a product called "Renewable Energy" then it would be bad for that brand to allow politicians to call nonrenewable forms of energy as Renewable Energy.

What next? Want to help Colorado beef producers by allowing them to promote Colorado Beef as being organic beef whether or not it followed the rules for organic? Maybe they could get better prices if they were allowed to say it was Kobe beef. Sure, in the short term you can help a product by allowing a lie so that it can be called a more popular product.


Steve Lewis 4 years, 1 month ago

A mine is leaking millions of cubic feet of methane, 21 times more potent a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide. Everyone now knows the mine is leaking.

In my understanding of "common sense", whoever dug the mine should be fixing the mine, and they should be doing it yesterday.

Mike or Doug, can you explain why fixing this problem first requires legislating a new definition of renewable energy?


Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

A whole lot of natural gas leaks from nat gas well sites. Enough that it is causing regional air pollution issues in areas with lots of wells. Should nat gas well operators get to call their nat gas as renewable energy if they fix leaky compressors and other leaks?

Can anyone explain how methane from a coal mine could be defined as "renewable" without redefining renewable to also mean "nonrenewable"?


mark hartless 4 years, 1 month ago

Didn't Doug Monger's last sentence address that, Scott. Why force "renewable" energy into the position of being the enemy of "environmentally sound" energy? Don't both get you going in the same direction?


Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago


No, because renewable energy is renewable energy to its customers. It would be silly to terminate the renewable energy program just because capturing leaking methane gas is also a good idea.

Maybe state needs rules on releasing methane and create standards so those generating electricity from captured methane can market it as Methane Capture and Greenhouse Gas Reducing Electricity.


Steve Lewis 4 years, 1 month ago

I found this site last summer during the smoke. Used it for camping options. New York and L.A. have been on and off the national screen. Utah is on it every day. West Moffat County is on it most every Winter day. These last two are from those leaks oil and gas leaks that are so potent as greenhouse gases.

The extractive industries could do better.


Mike Isaac 4 years, 1 month ago

Steve and Scott I have never liked the term "renewable energy or sustainable development " or viable and equitable or one many of you have herd called Smart Growth. All these terms have there roots in The United Nations Agenda 21 or their sub groups like International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives ICLEI. We should never allow the United Nations tell Colorado what to do how to live, let alone tell elected persons what laws to pass, if I had my way the US would not be a member. ( Read the Book" Behind the Green Mask UN Agenda 21" by Rosa Koire )

However I have always like the term Boutique Energy to describe some of the more expensive types of energy. Not that it even matters. My Mac is doing just fine on Coal Electricity here in Routt County and im sure it would work the same down in Surf City USA Huntington Beach, CA on Nuck power or Hydro power in the Pacific Northwest.

Stop playing word games, fix the leak and make some Electricity.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

So the people opposed to renewable energy want to destroy the renewable energy program by adding nonrenewable energy to the program.

And the supporters of renewable energy killed the idea.

If those that proposed the idea actually cared about the environment, as compared to destroying the renewable energy program, then they would have found a different way to reduce methane emissions. For instance, it is obvious that far more methane leaks from nat gas wells than from this coal mine so if these states legislators truly cared about greenhouse gas emissions would have first proposed a law requiring nat gas well operators to stop leaking. But then these Republican legislators are generally against government regulation and would probably oppose such efforts.


mark hartless 4 years, 1 month ago


The above comment is a good example of how you lie... mostly to yourself.

When it comes to "renewable energy" I do not think there are very many folks out there who "want to destroy" it as you claim.

Sure the oil industry would like it to go away, but so what? Burger King would like McDonalds to go out of business too.

Most Americans, even us "right-wing" "drill baby drill" whackos, have absolutely nothing against so-called "renewable energy". We would love it if all our electricity came from windmills and unicorns, solar panels and rainbows, ferry dust and dafodils.

What we simply do not want is unreliable and expensive energy. When you go out to buy a new pickup truck do you go where you can pay the MOST, or where you can pay the LEAST??? Why should kilowatts be any different??

Unfortunately, tree-huggers are better at making up euphamisms and scare slogans like "renewable energy", "sustainability", Climate Change", "Global Warming", etc, than they are at making windmills and solar panels which can rival fossil fuels. In fact, they are not even close, Do you have any idea how many revolutions a windmill must make to create the same energy found in 1 teaspoon of gasoline?

Despite almost 2 decades of propaganda from the nature nazis Americans instinctively know that prosperity, autonomy and innovation are all inextricably tied to the production, distribution and consumption of energy. And they know that anything which makes that energy harder to come by is going to translate into lower standards of living.

Simple, inescapable rules of economics are these:

1. A nations standard of living is ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY linked to energy consumption. The more energy a nation uses the more prosperous, healthier, productive and wealthy it's people will be... period

2. Anything that costs more is used less. Raising the cost of energy makes us use less or defer other purchases such as nutrition, shelter, medical needs, etc.

Americans don't want to "destroy renewable energy" they simply want to keep renewable energy from "destroying" them.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

If the bill had passed then the environmentalists and hence the media is going to publicize that Colorado stretched the definition of renewable to include methane from coal.

The current customers of renewable such as ski areas with signs on lift towers stating that they are powered by renewable energy are not going want to buy electricity from methane from coal. So if the bill had passed then it would have damaged the current customer base for renewable energy.

The bill was rejected by those that support renewable energy programs. The bill was proposed and supported by those that have criticized and called for the end of renewable energy programs. I think it is naive to believe that they believed adding methane from coal would improve the renewable energy program. You'd have to believe that they are so ignorant of renewable energy programs that they could see the problem of calling methane from coal as renewable which, by definition, it is not renewable.

Maybe those that proposed this bill didn't intend to destroy the renewable energy program, but that would certainly have been the result.


Sam Jones 4 years, 1 month ago

Well said Scott

Chuck , this must be embarrassing for you to hear so much commentary pointing to the obvious. I am left wondering if you think our local readers are really that uneducated or illogical to accept such a crazy statement. The ends will never justify the means and your argument was well short of persuasive. I'm thankful that we still have a judicial system that can still count to 10.


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