Coal-bed methane attracts
Halliburton to West Virginia
by Vivian Stockman
According to the New York Times, methane is 23 times as potent in terms of global warming as carbon dioxide, though it does not persist in the atmosphere as many years.
In October, the WV Development Office, working with WVU National Research Center for Coal & Energy, held the WV Coal Bed Natural Gas Workshop, which looked at issues surrounding coal-bed methane. Attendees included a slew of lawyers, oil and gas operators, at least five Halliburton employees (the company tied to VP Dick Cheney and dirty dealings both here and in Iraq), researchers, regulatory agency reps and an OVEC staffer.
The Washington Post reports that the search for coal-bed methane, "which pumps water out of shallow aquifers to get at methane trapped in coal seams, has laced vast tracts of Wyoming - including prime deer-hunting land - with roads, wastewater pits, power lines and noisy compressor stations."
Themes at the WV conference were the need for guidance on who owns coal-bed methane and an overall cry for less regulation, more tax-breaks and more free-for-all. Surface owners were viewed as an impediment to mineral right owners. Actual utterings: "Surface ownership (of coalbed methane) would just muddy the waters"; "If the surface owner is declared to be the owner of coalbed methane it is a big problem for all of us"; "(Surface owners) are subservient to the severance of mineral rights."
One conference participant had the gall to suggest that the government should provide tax breaks similar to the highly circumspect "synfuel" tax breaks, which coal companies may use to bilk taxpayers of $1 Billion this year alone!
In bemoaning problems with hydraulic injection (a technique for getting increasing the production of coal-bed methane) and the Safe Drinking Water Act, another participant noted that the "fix" was in the pending federal energy bill. Indeed!
According to the Denver Post:
Tucked inside an 800-page energy bill winding its way through Congress is a short section that would exempt from federal regulation a lucrative gas-drilling process perfected by the energy company Vice President Dick Cheney once ran.
The exemption, while it likely wouldn't benefit Cheney financially, is testament to the support that the oil and gas industry enjoys in the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress.
The process, widely used across Colorado and the rest of the West, injects diesel fuel, hydrochloric acid or other additives into the ground to help boost production.
Environmentalists say that could put drinking water at risk, and they want federal officials to have regulatory power to prevent problems and step in if water is contaminated. Alabama residents say the technique, called hydraulic fracturing, fouled drinking-water wells and unleashed a stench in homes
Officials of Halliburton Co., a Houston-based oil and gas giant that Cheney was running when Bush picked him as his running mate in 2000, say regulation is a threat to profits. The company fought regulation of hydraulic fracturing when Cheney was chief executive.
After Cheney took office and chaired the White House energy task force, his final report touted hydraulic fracturing as a way to deliver more clean-burning natural gas to the nation, although he did not ask Congress for an exemption. It left out any potential environmental hazards
After the conference, the organizers sent around an e-mail touting the event a success. Got any ideas on who will pay the costs associated with the "success" of coal-bed methane in West Virginia?