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Enforcement

Consol Energy Inc., CNX Coal Resources LP, and Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company LLC Clean Water Settlement

(PHILADELPHIA - August 4, 2016)  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the state of Pennsylvania, announced today that Consol Energy Inc., CNX Coal Resources and Consol Pennsylvania Coal Co., LLC (“Consol”) have agreed to implement extensive water management and monitoring activities to prevent contaminated discharges of mining wastewater from the Bailey Mine Complex (Complex) in Greene and Washington Counties, Pa., to the Ohio River and its tributaries.

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Overview of Company

Consol Energy Inc., its subsidiary Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company LLC, and CNX Coal Resources LP (collectively “Consol”) are all parties to the consent decree. Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company LLC is a subsidiary of Consol Energy Inc. CNX Coal Resources LP (CNX) is a master limited partnership formed by Consol in 2015. All three organizations are Delaware corporations. Consol produces coal and natural gas for the electric power generation and steelmaking industries. Its operations are located in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia.

Consol’s Bailey Mine Complex is comprised of the Bailey, Enlow Fork, and Harvey (formerly known as BMX) mines in Greene and Washington Counties, Pennsylvania. The Bailey, Enlow Fork, and Harvey mines are large underground bituminous coal mines that are adjacent to each other and share a common coal preparation plant and coal refuse disposal areas. 

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Violations

From 2005 to 2012, the Bailey Mine Complex in Pennsylvania (one of the largest mines in the United States), reported over 5,300 days of violation of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit limits. Most of the violations were of osmotic pressure limits, a water quality-based parameter included in Pennsylvania NPDES permits that estimates the effect of dissolved constituents in the water (primarily salts) on aquatic life. Approximately 90 percent of those violations were due to discharges associated with the coal preparation and refuse disposal areas at the Bailey Mine Complex.  

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Injunctive Relief

To ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law (PCSL), and Consol’s permit requirements, Consol has implemented an extensive water management system and monitoring activities to prevent contaminated discharges of mining wastewater from the Bailey Mine Complex. Upon lodging the proposed consent decree, Consol will also perform water storage evaluations and will implement an environmental management system. Consol estimates that the total cost of these measures is roughly $5.3 million. 

If site conditions change, additional injunctive relief, including advanced and short term treatment plans, will be implemented to prevent future NPDES permit violations covered by the settlement. 

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Pollutant Reductions

The injunctive relief measures provided for in the consent decree will drastically reduce total dissolved solids by more than 2.5 million pounds on an annual basis.

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Health and Environmental Effects

Mining can have significant environmental and human health consequences. Mining discharges can impair streams and watersheds. Sediment-laden runoff can result in increased turbidity and dissolved oxygen in receiving waters, which in turn can result in loss of in-stream habitat for fish and other aquatic species. Sediment can kill fish directly, destroy spawning beds, suffocate fish eggs and bottom dwelling organisms, and block sunlight resulting in reduced growth of beneficial aquatic grasses. Excess levels of metals commonly found in mining discharges, such as iron and aluminum, can be toxic to fish by disrupting metabolic and reproductive systems. Precipitation of these metals can destroy habitat needed by macro invertebrates.

Osmotic pressure is based on the level of dissolved salts and other constituents in the water. Increased levels of salts, as measured by osmotic pressure, disrupt the life cycle of freshwater aquatic organisms. Freshwater animals can be exposed directly through their gills or other breathing surfaces. Some freshwater plants and animals can adjust to saltier waters, but many are unable to cope with extreme ranges of salinity. 

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Civil Penalty

Under the consent decree, Consol will also pay a civil penalty of $3 million, split between the U.S. and Pennsylvania.

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State Role

The State of Pennsylvania is a co-plaintiff in this case.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Division, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.  Information on submitting comments is available at the Department of Justice website.

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For More Information, Contacts:

Joanna Citron Day
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-5568
day.joanna@epa.gov

Kristin Buterbaugh
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-4479
buterbaugh.kristin@epa.gov

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