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Air Quality Issues in Coalbed Methane Development

Mary A. Throne, Regulation and Development of Coalbed Methane (2002)

In the development of coal bed methane reserves, concerns about disposal and management of water produced by the facilities often overshadow other environmental regulatory issues. But in order to plan for the development of the resource, relevant air quality regulations, particularly permitting, must be taken into consideration. Any required air permits for engines needed to produce and transport the methane must be in place in advance. Although the permitting requirements for major sources under the federal Clean Air Act are generally similar from state to state, the requirements for minor sources, such as the majority of the engines used in coal bed methane production, vary from state to state.

The purpose of this paper is to review the effect air qualityissues can have on the development of coal bed methane. The paper provides an overview of the federal Clean Air Act and an in-depth review of air quality issues in the Powder River Basin. The focus on the Powder River Basin in Wyoming is intended to demonstrate the types of issues that may arise in areas of concentrated CBM development.