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Consol Energy Inc. to pay $36 million to replace Greene County dam

Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Ryerson Station State Park maintenance supervisor Francis Jacobs, 61, of Waynesburg, walks towards the drained Ronald J. Duke Lake and the cracked panels of dam that once held it back at the Greene County park in Richhill on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Consol Energy Inc. will pay for the state to rebuild the dam in Ryerson Station State Park under the terms of a legal settlement announced Wednesday. Park officials drained the lake behind the dam in July 2005 after it started to leak 80 gallons a minute. It has been dry since, with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources fighting Consol in court over allegations that longwall mining in Richhill caused the cracks.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Ryerson Station State Park maintenance supervisor Francis Jacobs, 61, of Waynesburg, walks towards the drained Ronald J. Duke Lake and the cracked panels of dam that once held it back at the Greene County park in Richhill on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Consol Energy Inc. will pay for the state to rebuild the dam in Ryerson Station State Park under the terms of a legal settlement announced Wednesday. Park officials drained the lake behind the dam in July 2005 after it started to leak 80 gallons a minute. It has been dry since, with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources fighting Consol in court over allegations that longwall mining in Richhill caused the cracks.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - The dam that once held up Ronald J. Duke Lake in Ryerson Station State Park is illustrated in a framed picture on the wall at the Ryerson Station State Park offices, while surrounded by native taxidermic animals in Richhill, Greene County on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. The dam has since cracked and leaked, leading to the lake being drained in 2005. Consol Energy Inc. will pay for the state to rebuild the dam in Ryerson Station State Park under the terms of a legal settlement announced Wednesday.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>The dam that once held up Ronald J. Duke Lake in Ryerson Station State Park is illustrated in a framed picture on the wall at the Ryerson Station State Park offices, while surrounded by native taxidermic animals in Richhill, Greene County on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. The dam has since cracked and leaked, leading to the lake being drained in 2005. Consol Energy Inc. will pay for the state to rebuild the dam in Ryerson Station State Park under the terms of a legal settlement announced Wednesday.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) secretary Richard Allan talks at a press conference about the terms of a legal settlement reached with Consol Energy Inc. for the company to pay for the state to rebuild the dam in Ryerson Station State Park in Richhill, Greene County on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. 'We hope that by summer 2017 you'll be able to have your lake back,' said Allan.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) secretary Richard Allan talks at a press conference about the terms of a legal settlement reached with Consol Energy Inc. for the company to pay for the state to rebuild the dam in Ryerson Station State Park in Richhill, Greene County on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. 'We hope that by summer 2017 you'll be able to have your lake back,' said Allan.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) press secretary Chris Novak (right), 50, of Boiling Springs, listens from the side of the office at Ryerson Station State Park as DCNR secretary Richard Allan (left) and Consol Energy Inc. vice president of government and public relations Tommy Johnson (center) are reflected in an animal bones display case while they answer questions at a press conference about rebuilding the dam in Ryerson Station State Park in Richhill, Greene County on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Allan described the mineral rights ownership under the park as 'a checkerboard' and said no surface drilling for gas and oil will be allowed in the park. Johnson said Consol would be using 'horizontal drilling techniques' to drill for the natural gas deposits under the park in the parcels that they have the rights to, by drilling down in surrounding property outside the park and then over under the ground.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) press secretary Chris Novak (right), 50, of Boiling Springs, listens from the side of the office at Ryerson Station State Park as DCNR secretary Richard Allan (left) and Consol Energy Inc. vice president of government and public relations Tommy Johnson (center) are reflected in an animal bones display case while they answer questions at a press conference about rebuilding the dam in Ryerson Station State Park in Richhill, Greene County on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Allan described the mineral rights ownership under the park as 'a checkerboard' and said no surface drilling for gas and oil will be allowed in the park. Johnson said Consol would be using 'horizontal drilling techniques' to drill for the natural gas deposits under the park in the parcels that they have the rights to, by drilling down in surrounding property outside the park and then over under the ground.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Consol Energy Inc. vice president of government and public relations Tommy Johnson answers questions at a press conference about rebuilding the dam in Ryerson Station State Park in Richhill, Greene County on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Johnson said Consol would be using 'horizontal drilling techniques' to drill for the natural gas deposits under the park in the parcels that they have the rights to, by drilling down in surrounding property outside the park and then over under the ground.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Consol Energy Inc. vice president of government and public relations Tommy Johnson answers questions at a press conference about rebuilding the dam in Ryerson Station State Park in Richhill, Greene County on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Johnson said Consol would be using 'horizontal drilling techniques' to drill for the natural gas deposits under the park in the parcels that they have the rights to, by drilling down in surrounding property outside the park and then over under the ground.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) secretary Richard Allan (right) and Consol Energy Inc. vice president of government and public relations Tommy Johnson (left) answer questions at a press conference about rebuilding the dam in Ryerson Station State Park in Richhill, Greene County on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Consol Energy Inc. will pay for the state to rebuild the dam in Ryerson Station State Park under the terms of a legal settlement announced Wednesday. Park officials drained the lake behind the dam in July 2005 after it started to leak 80 gallons a minute. It has been dry since, with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources fighting Consol in court over allegations that longwall mining in Richhill caused the cracks.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) secretary Richard Allan (right) and Consol Energy Inc. vice president of government and public relations Tommy Johnson (left) answer questions at a press conference about rebuilding the dam in Ryerson Station State Park in Richhill, Greene County on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Consol Energy Inc. will pay for the state to rebuild the dam in Ryerson Station State Park under the terms of a legal settlement announced Wednesday. Park officials drained the lake behind the dam in July 2005 after it started to leak 80 gallons a minute. It has been dry since, with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources fighting Consol in court over allegations that longwall mining in Richhill caused the cracks.

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By Timothy Puko
Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 4:06 p.m.
 

State officials plan to reopen Duke Lake in Greene County by the summer of 2017, now that they have a multimillion-dollar deal with Consol Energy Inc. for dam repairs and gas drilling at Ryerson Station State Park.

The deal includes a $36 million payment from Cecil-based Consol to help rebuild the dam, state officials announced at the park Wednesday. The state is dropping its six-year legal fight over whether Consol's mining caused subsidence and cracks in the dam to get it rebuilt and protect the core of the park from drilling and mining, officials said.

As part of the deal, Consol officials will not admit fault. The dam will be designed to withstand impacts from coal and gas extraction nearby, said Tommy Johnson, Consol's vice president of government and public relations. Consol plans to expand its coal mining under the outskirts of the park. The state also agreed to lease the park's gas rights in return for Consol agreeing to keep its wells outside the park and its mines from under the lake, officials said.

“They own the mineral rights. You and I can't stop them from accessing them,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allan said after the announcement. “We're getting more than enough to rebuild the dam.”

The Center for Coalfield Justice, which had intervened in the legal case, criticized state officials for giving in to Consol's negotiating tactics and how it leveraged the mineral rights under the park.

“We're happy that the dam is coming back,” said the group's executive director, Patrick Grenter. “We think it's just outrageous that Consol has avoided taking any responsibility for the destruction they caused here.”

Workers at the nearby Graysville Store said that while they blamed Consol for the damage, getting the lake reopened and restoring a lost community keystone would be the biggest story of the year in Greene County.

“It would be the only thing anyone would care about or get excited about,” said Stacey Marshall, 36, of Richhill. It had long been the only spot for many local families to go fishing, camping, swimming and paddle boating, and they haven't wanted to go back since state workers drained the lake in 2005 when it was leaking badly, she said.

The center of the dam is gone, but the outer walls remain, with cracks several feet long and some cement segments separating at the base.

Less than half of the $36 million payment comes with no strings. Consol is paying $4 million as the upfront land bonus that's common in gas lease deals, and that money will go to a statewide fund. An additional $13.7 million is essentially a guaranteed advance on royalties the company could start paying if it drills under the land, department spokeswoman Christina Novak said.

As part of the settlement, Consol will also donate 506 acres to the 1,164-acre park. Consol could donate some of that land by early next year, but it will hold other parts for years to use for its well pads, company officials have said. It will be months before they finish a plan on where and how many wells they will drill and how long drilling will take, they added.

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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