Chuck McConnell: Common sense? | SteamboatToday.com

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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