WATER POLLUTION:

Consol to pay $6M for alleged violations at W.Va. mines

Consol Energy Inc. will pay $6 million in fines for alleged water pollution violations at six West Virginia mines, the Obama administration and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection announced today.

Consol is accused of hundreds of Clean Water Act violations in the last four years, including a large fish kill at Dunkard Creek near the West Virginia-Pennsylvania line in 2009.

"In this settlement, CONSOL takes responsibility for its past failures to abide by the terms of its Clean Water Act permits," Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement.

Consol said it is not to blame for discharges that led to the fish kill and that the settlement is not an admission of liability. The company said it took voluntary action to stop discharges into Dunkard Creek after the fish kill.

Under the settlement, Consol has agreed to build a treatment plant to remove pollutants from discharges at several mines. The company is spending $200 million on the project and is urging other mine operators to follow its lead.

"This agreement advances stricter water quality standards that CONSOL, and soon others, must meet," Katharine Fredriksen, Consol's senior vice president of environmental strategy and regulatory affairs, said in a statement. "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."

West Virginia regulators said the agreement will improve water quality in the Monongahela River watershed. Dunkard Creek is a tributary of the Monongahela. The state will get $500,000 of the $6 million.

"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 Department of Environmental Protection Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman in a statement released by Consol.

The settlement comes days after Arch Coal Inc. agreed to pay $4 million in fines also for alleged Clean Water Act violations in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky (Greenwire, March 1).

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