L. James Lyman


Coalbed methane ("CBM") is a rapidly growing source of energy in the United States, particularly in the Intermountain West. Rather than being captured and utilized, however, much of the recoverable CBM is released into the atmosphere as coal mine methane ("CMM), a byproduct of coal mining. Allowing a federal coal operator to capture and sell or otherwise consume CMM would reduce greenhouse emissions, provide additional fuel for power generation, and avoid the waste of valuable natural resources. However, there is sparse guidance from the federal government regarding the right of federal coal operators to engage in CMM sale. What little federal law exists on this topic has focused exclusively on the issue of ownership. This Comment looks beyond the issue of ownership and explores the issue of implied incidental mining rights, the group of rights that allow a mine operator to use another party's resources without having an ownership interest in them. This Comment argues that such rights should also allow a federal coal operator to sell or consume CMM that would otherwise be vented.