(10/01/2008)
CONSOL Energy Inc. will pay about $400,000 in fines for water pollution violations under a settlement with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

CONSOL has been cited for 270 violations in West Virginia, which they apparently procrastinated paying.

The CONSOL deal is the third such agreement that DEP has worked out privately to resolve water discharge violations.

The actual amount of the fines was not revealed.

Ted Boettner, executive director of the WV Center on Budget and Public Policy, told a group at a Charleston symposium last week, there are problems with "accountability and transparency" related to the industry.

"Their PR doesn't match the facts. We need sunshine and light," Boettner said.

The deals are part of a movement by DEP and the coal industry to resolve water pollution violations never previously cited by DEP, and avoid federal government enforcement actions or citizen group lawsuits.

Coal industry officials began approaching DEP to negotiate settlements after Massey Energy paid a record $20 million to settle a water pollution lawsuit brought against it by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Historically, coal corporations pay pennies on the dollar when fined. Most consider it a cost of doing business.

EPA sued Massey over thousands of violations that DEP never cited because state officials for roughly five years did not review the incident reports.

Mike Zeto, DEP's chief inspector for environmental enforcement, has declined to post copies of the coal industry agreements on the agency's Internet site.


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