“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.”
“This 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 its mining operations to minimize the risk of another algae outbreak while at the same time keeping the miners working.”
“Mining is critical to our state’s economy, but clean water is paramount,” said Secretary Huffman. “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 gpm, removing 95%-98% 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 is currently in the process of commissioning at its Buchanan mine in Virginia, puts the company at the forefront of environmental stewardship.
With the announcement, CONSOL challenges other operators along the Monongahela tributary to follow its lead to protect the watershed and believes the 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, senior vice president of environmental strategy and regulatory affairs, CONSOL Energy.
The 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 immediately took voluntary action to temporarily stop permitted discharges of water from its mines to the creek. Working with renowned biologists, CONSOL 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 designed a multi-phase short and long-term management program for discharges from multiple mines, including its Blacksville No. 2, Loveridge and Robinson Run mines. CONSOL 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, CONSOL Energy also agreed to pay the EPA $5.5 million, without admitting any liability. This amount was previously recognized in CONSOL’s financial statements and will have no impact on 2011 earnings. 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.