Senate Panel Passes Coalbed Methane Bill
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed S.
1950, the Powder River Basin Resource Development Act, by a voice
vote last week. Wyoming Sens. Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi said it
provides for the fair and expeditious resolution of conflicts
between oil and gas producers and coal producers with overlapping
leases in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and southern Montana.
"Clearly the best solution would have been consensual agreements
and cooperative production of both resources," said Thomas. "The
reality is a conflict still exists. If we allow it to continue, it
will result in delays which ultimately leads to fewer jobs and
slower economic growth for Wyoming, as well as reduced federal and
"There is still a company or two out there that would like to
use lease conflicts to gain a financial advantage, but for the most
part we have an agreement that this is the reasonable way to
proceed," said Enzi. The bill has five major components. It would
require a lease holder, either coal or coalbed methane, to give the
other at least 180 days notice before mining operations would
commence on the common area of the overlapping leases. Once a
conflict is imminent, the two parties must attempt to resolve the
problem outside of court.
The bill outlines a step-by-step process to resolve disputes and
a calculation method to establish which resource would be more
beneficial to the public in the event that both resources cannot be
harvested. The final clause of the bill, provides that a temporary
or permanently displaced leaseholder will receive full fair market
value compensation for the amount of resources given up. This
ensures displaced leaseholders get a fair amount of compensation,
but not more than they would receive from developing the resource.
Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) has introduced a companion bill (H. 4297)
the House. It currently is in an Energy and Mineral Resources
subcommittee but no hearing date has been set.
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