Green groups sue CONSOL’s Fola Coal unit over water issues

The Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition on Aug. 8 filed an action against Fola Coal Co. LLC, alleging significant pollution that has contaminated a headwater stream in West Virginia. 

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, alleges that mine runoff from a mountaintop removal mine operated by Fola has contaminated the water in a Leatherwood Creek tributary—Right Fork—with sulfate and other dissolved solids that are harmful to aquatic life. 

These claims are based on the same legal theory that the two groups used to obtain a 2012 settlement against Fola, requiring it to clean up another biologically-impaired tributary—Boardtree Branch—in the Twentymile Creek watershed, the club said in an Aug. 8 statement. In both cases, the groups contend that the mining companies have violated West Virginia’s “narrative” water quality standards, which set general protections water quality, rather than “numeric” water quality standards, which set limits on the amount of specific pollutants in water.

Fola Coal is a unit of CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX).

This new lawsuit is in addition to four existing lawsuits against Alex Energy, Elk Run Coal Co. and Fola that allege that contaminated mine runoff has contributed to biological impairment of other streams in West Virginia.  So far, the groups have filed lawsuits targeting eight streams that are biologically impaired by coal mining operations—Boardtree Branch, Mudlick Fork, Robinson Fork, Stillhouse Branch, Spruce Run, Road Fork, Cogar Hollow, and Right Fork.

Alex Energy and Elk Run Coal are both units of Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR), which bought them in a 2011 buy of Massey Energy.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.