Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Settlement with U.S. and Pennsylvania Requires Consol Energy to Implement Water Management Upgrades to Protect Ohio River

The Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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, Pennsylvania, to the Ohio River and its tributaries.

In a consent decree filed in federal court today in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the company also agreed to continue to prevent certain discharges from the Complex, conduct regular long-term-monitoring to ensure sufficient storage capacity to prevent future discharges, develop contingency plans should future discharges become likely and implement an environmental management system to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act and other applicable environmental laws.  In addition Consol, the largest producer of coal from underground mines in the United States, will pay a $3 million civil penalty for Clean Water Act violations.

“We will continue to vigorously protect our District’s waterways and other vital natural resources,” said U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton for the Western District of Pennsylvania.  “Today’s settlement ensures that our rivers remain safe for future generations to use and enjoy.” 

“Mining operations that discharge to our rivers, lakes and streams have an obligation to comply with our nation’s laws that protect those water bodies, as well as public health,” said Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin for the EPA.  “The actions required by today’s settlement represent a major step forward in protecting local waterways and the health of communities.”

The U.S. government’s complaint, filed concurrently with the settlement, alleges chronic exceedances of osmotic pressure (OP) and other limits in Consol’s Clean Water Act discharge permits.  The discharges primarily enter into tributaries of the Ohio River.  OP is the standard used in Pennsylvania to protect aquatic life from excess amounts of total dissolved solids (TDS).  Too much TDS going into a water body can increase the salinity of the water and harm aquatic life and impact drinking water quality.

“Protecting Pennsylvania’s waterways is a top priority of DEP and we will not allow companies to pollute our rivers and streams,” said Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.  “CONSOL has agreed to improve their facilities to prevent future discharges, and the actions today will go a long way towards ensuring Pennsylvania’s waters are protected.”

Under the terms of the consent decree, Consol has agreed to:

  • Complete and maintain certain water management measures to prevent discharges from certain outfalls at the Complex;
  • Monitor and report quarterly and annually, to ensure adequate storage capacity to prevent future discharges;
  • Submit and implement a plan for achieving long term compliance through advanced treatment in the event of projected exhaustion of storage capacity; 
  • Develop and implement an environmental management system to ensure environmental compliance throughout the Complex; and,
  • Pay a $3 million civil penalty.

These measures will continue to reduce TDS in mining waters discharged to streams from the Complex.  EPA estimates that implementation of the consent decree by Consol will eliminate more than 2.5 million pounds of pollutants in the form of TDS.

The consent decree, which is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval, is available at: https://www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees

Press Release Number: 
Updated August 4, 2016