TIM HUBER

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) â¿¿ Coal and natural gas producer Consol Energy Inc. has agreed to strengthen pollution controls at a southern West Virginia surface mine to settle an environmental lawsuit, the Sierra Club said Thursday.

The agreement calls for Consol's Powellton Coal subsidiary to cut discharges of aluminum, iron and other pollutants into tributaries of the Gauley River from the Bridge Fork mining complex in Fayette County. The deal also calls for a $1.2 million donation to West Virginia University College of Law and $134,000 in federal fines, among other things.

"It's about time Powellton faced up to its responsibility to clean up its own mess," Sierra Club spokesman Jim Sconyers said in a statement.

The Gauley is a popular river among whitewater rafters.

"This is a great victory not only for the streams that we depend on, but also for the Gauley River National Recreation Area and the New River National River," said Beverly Walkup, secretary of the Ansted Historic Preservation Council, which brought the lawsuit with the Sierra Club in 2008.

A Consol spokesman did not immediately return a telephone message.

The WVU donation is supposed to help create a clinic to provide legal help to communities that want to protect the New and Gauley watersheds, the Sierra Club said. Among other things, the clinic is supposed to help land trusts acquire conservation easements and work on residential sewage problems.

The agreement also would increase fines for future fines to $2,000 per violation in the first year of the agreement to as high as $12,000 in the third year.
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