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Business roundup: Consol receives sustainability certification from shale group; more

| Tuesday, April 7, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

Consol meets sustainability standards

Consol Energy Inc. became the third natural gas producer to earn certification from a Downtown partnership between drillers and environmentalists that sets voluntary standards for protecting air and water.

The Cecil-based coal and gas company, which is Pennsylvania's 11th-largest shale gas producer, met 15 standards set by the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, Consol and the nonprofit plan to announce Tuesday.

The center was founded two years ago by environmental groups, foundations and four gas producers: Consol, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron Corp. and EQT Corp. All but EQT have been certified.

The company's compliance with the standards at wells in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio was audited by the firm Bureau Veritas.

The center and its founding companies have said they are trying to encourage other producers to seek certification.

Comment period for drilling rules extended

The state Department of Environmental Protection will extend for 15 days a public comment period on the latest draft of new rules for oil and gas drillers, and will schedule three more hearings on the proposed regulations.

The department on Monday extended the comment period on so-called Chapter 78 rules until May 19, citing requests from lawmakers and others for more time to respond to changes in the proposal.

Dates and times for the hearings were not set.

The regulations, which have their genesis in the oil and gas law revisions in Act 13 of 2012, aim to protect water, air and other resources around gas wells, particularly in the Marcellus shale.

A three-month comment period and nine hearings on an initial draft resulted in 24,000 responses to the department. The latest comment period, which began Saturday, is focused on changes based, in part, on those comments and a new administration.

Sluggish bond sales of Murray reported

Murray Energy Corp. is struggling to sell $1.55 billion of bonds the coal miner needs to complete its acquisition of Foresight Energy LP, according to Bloomberg News.

Investors are demanding more than the 10.25 percent to 11 percent yields that were being proposed on the two-part note offering last week, Bloomberg reported, citing three people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because the information isn't public.

Murray on Wednesday strengthened covenants on $1.83 billion in loans funding its merger. Kerrie McHugh, a spokeswoman for Deutsche Bank AG, the bank leading the note sale, declined to comment, as did Gary Broadbent, a spokesman at St. Clairsville, Ohio-based Murray.

Foresight Energy did not respond to a call and email requesting comment.

Murray is buying 50 percent of Foresight for $1.4 billion to gain a bigger presence in the Illinois basin, a bright spot in the slumping coal industry. Proceeds of the bond sale will help fund a tender offer to refinance existing notes.

Southwest Airlines CEO gets 24 percent boost in compensation

Southwest Airlines Co. earned a record profit last year, and the CEO benefited with a 24 percent increase in compensation to $5 million.

Southwest detailed 2014 compensation for Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly in a regulatory filing Monday.

The bulk of Kelly's compensation was in stock awards, which the Dallas-based airline valued at $3 million when they were issued, up from $2.25 million in 2013. Kelly was paid a salary of $675,000 — unchanged from the previous two years — a bonus of $224,775 and incentive pay of $904,770. Kelly got $174,793 in other compensation, including company contributions to retirement and profit-sharing plans, and $23,561 in above-market earnings on deferred compensation.

Southwest is the fourth-biggest American airline by passenger traffic.

— Staff and wire reports

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