The California Air Resources Board (ARB) was expected to vote on several draft amendments to carbon market regulations last week, including the proposed Mine Methane Capture (MMC) offset protocol, but put off a vote in the context of lively debate. The delay could shrink the volume of offsets available during the second compliance period of the state’s cape-and-trade program.
This article was originally published in the V-Carbon newsletter. Click here to read the original.
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This week in V-Carbon…
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) met last week but did not vote to approve the addition of the proposed Mine Methane Capture (MMC) offset protocol, as expected. Instead, the board voted on a resolution to provide staff with more guidance on proposed amendments to the state’s cap-and-trade regulation.
In the context of a potential shortage of available offsets, many stakeholders have their sights on the proposed MMC offset protocol that could produce a potential domestic offset supply of 60 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (tCO2e) in emissions reductions, according to an ARB presentation on Friday. The proposed methodology covers activities from three project types: active underground mines, abandoned underground mines, and active surface mines. Under the protocol, the methane that would otherwise be vented or drained to the atmosphere is either destroyed or captured to generate heat or electricity.
Public comment on the protocol was mixed. Groups that oppose its adoption are generally skeptical of offsets sourced from fossil fuel companies. In their submitted comments, nonprofit Food & Water Watch calls the protocol a “pay to pollute scheme” and claims that the protocol could “even cause an increase in coal production.”
Supporters of the protocol’s adoption say that offset revenue would not increase coal production but would rather incentivize the installation of methane capture technology, which is currently not required by law. Harold Buchanan, CEO of CE2 Carbon Capital, says that the reality is that fugitive methane emissions are unregulated, and coal mines have no incentive to invest in its capture without the MMC protocol.
In their comments to the ARB, Solvay Chemicals, which operates an underground trona mine in Wyoming, said that they are considering doubling the capacity of their mine methane capture treatment system, and that the ARB’s adoption (or not) of the MMC protocol will play a key role in that investment decision. Because capital for new projects will be “very tight” until the protocol is approved, the delay could significantly shrink the volume of offsets available from coal mine projects during the second compliance period, said one MMC project developer. The protocol does not preclude future regulation.
The ARB’s staff is now tasked with answering the questions raised by the latest guidance document, even as they continue to accept public comments. They will revisit the MMC protocol in the spring, along with the rice cultivation protocol, which was delayed last August. Read more about the draft amendments under consideration by the ARB below.
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