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Atlantic Aviation donates $500,000 to help give flight to Coal Basin methane-mitigation project

Atlantic fueling.jpeg
Brent Gardner-Smith
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Aspen Public Radio
An Atlantic Aviation fuel truck helps fuel an airplane at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. The company is the fixed-base operator at the Aspen airport, providing services such as fuel and private plane parking.

Atlantic Aviation is giving $500,000 to the Roaring Fork Valley’s Community Office for Resource Efficiency to support a project to combat methane emissions at the Coal Basin mine, near Redstone.

The company provides general aviation services such as fuel and private plane parking as the fixed-base operator at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. Atlantic Aviation has more than 100 fixed-base operations nationwide.

It has a fixed-base operator contract at the Aspen airport through 2023, and the application period is currently open through mid-January for the next 30-year lease.

The methane emissions from Coal Basin have a worse environmental impact than “transportation, aviation, residential and commercial buildings, and waste in Pitkin County combined,” according to CORE. The organization is now working with community partners to find a way to capture or eliminate the methane so it doesn’t leak into the atmosphere.

At a news conference Friday, CORE CEO Dallas Blaney said the money from Atlantic Aviation will be used mainly for research in Phase 1 and project development in Phase 2 to actually get rid of the methane.

The second phase is where the money will really make a dent, he said.

“That's where this investment will really come into play and help us move forward, because that's where the real costs are, to try and to get in there and destroy the methane,” he said.

Blaney wrote in a follow-up email that the research component could cost about $400,000 to $500,000.

The project to actually mitigate the methane emissions could cost about $900,000 to $1.3 million, but that could rise if CORE uses multiple mitigation systems, according to Blaney.

And the price tag could jump to $8 million or more if CORE identifies high-quality gas and wants to use it to generate electricity.

Atlantic Aviation’s donation to CORE is the first corporate contribution to the Coal Basin project.

Brian Corbett, Atlantic Aviation’s chief sustainability officer, said at the news conference that the company is aware of the impact that aviation has on the environment and insists this donation isn’t “greenwashing."

This is actually supporting a project that's important to our local team, that's important to the community that we serve, and it's going to make big impacts,” Corbett said. “We're not doing it so we get the credit. We're doing it because it's the right thing to do.”

Coal Basin Scenic.jpg
Eleanor Bennett
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Aspen Public Radio
Coal Basin is spread over a mix of Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and private land, which means Pitkin County and the stakeholder group will need to get permission from individual landowners and the federal government.

The company incorporates some sustainable aviation fuel into the fuel it provides to both private and commercial planes, but availability fluctuates, so the proportion of sustainable fuel to traditional fuel in the supply in Aspen can vary. (The “sustainability” primarily comes from a reduced carbon footprint during the fuel-production process.)

Atlantic Aviation also buys carbon-offset credits through an organization called the Carbon Fund to support other projects that mitigate climate impact. Those projects include methane capture, hydroelectric power and wind power.

This donation to CORE is the largest corporate contribution to the organization.

The Coal Basin project is also getting $1.2 million in federal support, $200,000 from the Pitkin County government and $170,000 from CORE’s own budget.

The federal dollars have been designated but aren’t actually in CORE’s pockets just yet, Blaney wrote.

And the money from the Pitkin County government is specifically to help with the National Environmental Policy Act process.

The funds from Atlantic Aviation aren’t restricted to a specific component of the project, so CORE can use the money however it’s needed for Coal Basin.

Some additional financial support to CORE from individual donors, including local philanthropists Melony and Adam Lewis, can also be used for the project.

Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Williams joins the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories.
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