Feds, Pennsylvania settle Consol Energy water pollution suit

By Joe Mandak, Associated Press

Consol Energy has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a claim that its Bailey coal mining complex in southwestern Pennsylvania repeatedly polluted nearby streams beyond what's permitted under federal and state law.

 

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Consol Energy has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a claim that its Bailey coal mining complex in southwestern Pennsylvania repeatedly polluted nearby streams beyond what's permitted under federal and state law.

The Justice Department filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

As part of the settlement, the energy company also agreed to make improvements to prevent contaminated discharges of mining wastewater from the Bailey Mine Complex in Greene and Washington counties to the Ohio River and its tributaries.

"Today's settlement ensures that our rivers remain safe for future generations to use and enjoy," said U.S. Attorney David Hickton for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Consol spokesman Brian Aiello issued a statement saying the company responded to pollution problems before 2011 and "proactively identified the issue and invested millions of dollars in comprehensive, technology-based water management solutions to ensure continued environmental compliance."

The lawsuit contended two of the mine's water discharges exceeded daily pollution limits 188 times and the monthly limit 170 times from January 2006 through June 2015.

The illegal pollution fouled streams near coal washing operations and slurry ponds near the Bailey, Enlow Fork and Bailey mines in Greene and Washington counties.

The lawsuit indicated regulators could seek federal fines of up to $32,500 per violation before Jan. 12, 2009 and $37,500 per violation thereafter, and up to $10,000 per state violation.

Canonsburg-based Consol said the agreed upon settlement and penalties "reflects a cooperative effort with state and federal agencies, and recognizes the work done by Consol to achieve and maintain compliance."

Two Consol-affiliated companies were sued and also are part of the settlement, CNX Coal Resources LP and Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company LLC.

Consol sold five West Virginia mines to Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp. three years ago, then established CNX as a spin-off to run the Bailey Mine Complex last year.

Murray Energy paid $2.5 million to settle claims by Pennsylvania that one of the former Consol mines polluted Dunkard Creek on the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border. The pollution killed 43,000 fish, 15,000 mussels and 6,500 mudpuppy salamanders in September 2009, though environmental officials in both states say the creek has largely rebounded since the pollution was cleaned up.

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