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New revelations this week that Massey Energy kept two sets of books at its Big Branch Mine, failing to report major safety hazards to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), have put the media spotlight back on coal mine safety around the country. Colorado coal mines have racked up millions in health and safety violation fines over the last decade, according to the MSHA.
Plans by a Denver-based company to capture and convert to energy methane gas spewing from a coal mine in western Colorado came as a surprise to environmentalists who have been urging such action for years and won praise from at least one potential customer, the Aspen Skiing Company. Holy Cross Energy, a Glenwood Springs-based electric co-op stretching from Aspen to Vail, is working with Denver-based Vessels Coal Gas to recover coal mine methane at Oxbow Mining’s Sanborn Creek Mine in Gunnison County, according to the Vessels website.
Colorado’s coal industry, the ninth-most productive in the nation in 2008, is under fire from politicians and environmentalists but not, as is the case this month in West Virginia, for safety reasons.