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Methane from Appalachian coal could generate carbon credits in California

Inside a coal mine in Greene County, Pennsylvania.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Inside a coal mine in Greene County, Pennsylvania.

Methane emissions from coal mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia could soon become a valuable commodity on California’s cap-and-trade carbon market.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports a company called Verdeo has struck such a deal with one of Pennsylvania’s biggest coal producers. Verdeo would pay Consol Energy to destroy the methane emitted from vents at a Washington County mine in order to generate carbon credits that Verdeo would sell to companies in California.
More from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: 

If federal regulators decide to cap emissions from coal mines, Consol will have coal mine methane projects in its pocket to mitigate the blow.
It’s also a new source of revenue for the coal company, said John Savage, managing director at Verdeo, whose deal with Consol involves Verdeo footing the bill for the equipment that destroys the methane and paying a royalty to Consol for the use of its ventilated air.
“It’s like an oil and gas deal,” Mr. Savage said. “Somebody owns the gas and somebody wants to develop it. [Coal companies] are glad if someone wants to come in and say, ‘Hey, we’ll spend the money to mitigate your emissions and we’ll pay you a royalty to do that.’ ”

Verdeo was founded in 2008 to take advantage of the national cap-and-trade regime that seemed, at the time, like an inevitability.
A cap-and-trade system puts a ceiling on emissions from certain polluters. To stay within those limits, companies can either reduce their emissions, buy allowances from other companies’ reductions, or buy offsets, which are generated by projects outside of the regulated industries. Planting trees, which absorb carbon dioxide, is one way to generate an offset. Keeping methane from the atmosphere is another.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that some scientists claim may be more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to global warming.
California is the only state that is currently in the cap-and-trade carbon market and the two companies have yet to seal the deal. The California Air Resources Board must vote to allow the use of coal mine methane for carbon credits and that vote has been postponed until next year, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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