Please “Develop Coalbed Methane Carefully”

A Recent Letter to the Editor in the Billings Gazette. As you look up and down the front range of the Rocky Mountains, all the way from New Mexico to Canada, you will find heavy Methane Gas Well development. Each and every well that is producing Methane Gas, or better known as Natural Gas, from coal beds also removes or has removed a lot of ground water in order to release the methane gas.

This affects each and everyone of us living in these areas. Why? because these coalbed methane gas wells are shallow wells as compared to other areas in the country and when water is removed it can and does affect our domestic water wells and many have gone dry or have been damaged beyond repair. Not only is the water being removed but the chemicals used in fracking or developing these gas wells have not been disclosed and could be harmful for our health and the enviroment.

Here is what one family has to say,

I’m excited that people in the U.S. and in our area are looking at alternatives for energy other than oil from the Middle East. One of those efforts, which produces both energy and jobs, is coalbed methane. But it also does potential harm if done poorly or without concern for our environment and water depletion and water rights.

I’m no expert, but I understand that coalbed methane is trapped gas held in coal seams by underground water. The gas is released by pumping out the water. Sometimes as much as 20 gallons of water per minute for years and years.

The estimates for coalbed methane development are generally around 20,000 wells in southeast Montana. This many wells can pump out as much as half a trillion gallons in 10 years. Some published, respected analysis predict that groundwater aquifers could be lowered by as much as 600 feet. Wells can and will dry up.

Aquifer recharge, or pumping the water back down where it came from, is a method of coal bed methane production which allows energy companies to extract methane while maintaining the aquifers and preventing water pollution. It might cost a little more, but energy companies can still earn a profit.

The EPA is finally looking more closely at this ever increasing industry.  We need to make sure this is done properly, so that eastern Montana is not faced with disastrous side effects as happened in Butte.

Bob and Marilyn Thaden

Miles City