CONSOL Energy Reaches Ground Breaking Clean Water Agreement with U.S. EPA and West Virginia DEP

Mar 14, 2011, 12:06 ET from CONSOL Energy Inc.

PITTSBURGH, March 14, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- CONSOL Energy Inc. (NYSE: CNX), the leading diversified energy producer in the eastern United States, announced today an agreement promoting environmental stewardship that will set the highest standard for mine water treatment. The agreement being announced was entered into voluntarily between CONSOL Energy, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP).

"We currently employ more than 3,500 people and produce more than 30 million tons of coal per year from our reserves in West Virginia," said CONSOL Energy President Nick DeIuliis.  "As one of the largest operators and employers in the state, we take seriously our role as stewards of the land and are proud of our track record on environmental excellence.  This agreement represents a concrete, proactive demonstration of that commitment."

"Today's agreement is an example of how we can protect the environment in accordance with the law while maintaining the economic engine that our state depends upon," said West Virginia DEP Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman. "In the days immediately following the fish kill in Dunkard Creek, CONSOL voluntarily worked with the DEP and the EPA to proactively manage their mining operations to minimize the risk of another algae outbreak while at the same time keeping their miners working."

Secretary Huffman added, "Mining is critical to our state's economy, but clean water is paramount. This agreement supports both. We appreciate having CONSOL as our environmental and economic partner in protecting our state's watersheds."

Working with the regulatory authorities, CONSOL Energy was able to outline an efficient, flexible path forward to implement additional clean technologies and best practices at its operations.  The agreement will allow CONSOL Energy to treat mine water discharges from four mines on the order of 3,500 gallons per minute, removing 95-98 percent of the pollutants through the use of a state of the art centralized Reverse Osmosis/Zero Liquid Discharge (RO/ZLD) facility. CONSOL Energy is making an investment of $200 million as part of this commitment.  This facility, together with a similar $100 million water treatment facility that CONSOL Energy is currently in the process of commissioning at its Buchanan Mine in Virginia, puts the company at the forefront of environmental stewardship.

With today's announcement, CONSOL Energy challenges other operators along the Monongahela tributary to follow its lead to protect the watershed and believes that today's announcement sets an example for everyone in the energy industry. "This agreement advances stricter water quality standards that CONSOL, and soon others, must meet.  However, the watershed approach is the first of its kind and we believe it is an example others should look to in meeting their environmental challenges," said Katharine Fredriksen, CONSOL Energy senior vice president of environmental strategy and regulatory affairs.  

Today's agreement follows a fall 2009 algae bloom that was fatal to a large quantity of fish and other aquatic life in Dunkard Creek, a tributary of the Monongahela River.  CONSOL Energy immediately took voluntary action to temporarily stop permitted discharges of water from its mines to the creek.  Working with renowned biologists, CONSOL Energy determined its operations were not the cause of the algae bloom, but because of its commitment to community and environment, initiated a plan to manage stream water quality.  As a result, CONSOL Energy designed a multi-phase short and long-term management program for discharges from multiple mines, including its Blacksville #2, Loveridge and Robinson Run Mines. CONSOL Energy will construct and operate a series of pipelines to collect water from the three mines and install the regional RO/ZLD facility to remove chlorides and other salts from permitted discharge water.  Full operation is expected in May 2013.  

Under the agreement announced today, CONSOL Energy also agreed to pay the EPA $5.5 million, without admitting any liability.  This amount was previously recognized in CONSOL Energy's financial statements and will have no impact on 2011 earnings.  

Today CONSOL is also resolving alleged natural resource damages claims in a cash settlement of $500,000 with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.  This agreement will not only avoid pointless litigation, but will also provide resources to the state to enable them to further address stream degradation issues such as poor stream habitat and poorly managed sewage discharges along the creek.  

CONSOL Energy Inc., the leading diversified fuel producer in the eastern United States, is a member of the Standard & Poor's 500 Equity Index and the Fortune 500. It has 11 bituminous coal mining complexes in five states and reports proven and probable coal reserves of 4.4 billion tons. It is also a leading eastern United States gas producer, with proved reserves of over 3.7 trillion cubic feet. Additional information about CONSOL Energy can be found at its Web site: