Leading in an Energetic Industry

General Counsel Martha Wiegand enjoys the challenges and excitement of the industry as she is part of the team rebranding CONSOL Energy

CONSOL Energy is working to make coal production safer, cleaner, and more technologically advanced.

When Martha Wiegand first became a lawyer, she thought her specialty would be real estate law. “I found out that wasn’t really interesting to me at all,” she admits. “The more interesting deals were ones that involved companies with many different businesses and issues.

“As a finance and deal attorney, I saw every kind of business known to mankind, and one of the most interesting areas to me was the energy industry,” she continues. “It seemed as if everything was constantly moving—the regulations were changing, and there was a lot of flux and excitement.”

That excitement has continued throughout her career as general counsel and secretary of CONSOL Energy Inc., based in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. She joined the legal department of CONSOL’s former parent company, now known as CNX Resources Corporation, in 2008 after a decade at several law firms handling financing and corporate transactions in the banking and energy industries.

Prior to the spin-off of CONSOL Energy from CNX in 2017, the company had produced both coal and natural gas, but following the spin-off, CONSOL Energy became a stand-alone coal company with a management team and employees focused solely on coal.

Martha Wiegand CONSOL Energy
Martha Wiegand, CONSOL Energy

Now, counting the long history of its former parent, CONSOL Energy has been a coal producer for more than 150 years, and is in the midst of rebranding. The company’s rebranding efforts look back at its history and forward to its future. “We are going back to our roots as a coal company, but we are doing what we do in a safer, more technologically advanced and savvy way,” Wiegand says.

One example of that technological advancement was showcased when CONSOL won a 2018 Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations award from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The award-winning, technically innovative safety system provides proximity detection on the long wall face where coal is mined. With the system, moving, mechanized mining equipment automatically stops when it gets too close to a miner with a special badge in his or her pocket.

“Those are the kinds of things we are working on—things that are both safety and compliance-oriented and at the same time more technologically advanced—to step into the next decade in mining while still retaining our history,” Wiegand says.

CONSOL is also embracing that philosophy across the company, from improved sustainability efforts, to advancing their internal business processes, and partnering on innovative projects such as OMNIS, which creates a cleaner-burning option for coal-fired power plants, and reducing the need for waste coal impoundments on the surface of sites.

Another part of CONSOL Energy’s rebranding is its community engagement efforts. These include roundtable discussions with the communities around its mines and its marine terminal at the Port of Baltimore to discover how it can help them. One such program resulting from these meetings is CONSOL Energy’s pledge of $180,000 to pay the salary for three years of a safety officer for the West Greene, Pennsylvania, school district.

Wiegand busies herself on the compliance and legal side, focusing on the company’s water treatment, safety, technology and automation efforts. Lately, her role has expanded to lead a contingent from various internal departments in discussions that focus on communications and rebranding projects aimed at reintroducing the company to communities, customers, employees, and the general public while making the case for coal in the twenty-first century.

As part of the rebranding, employees were asked to submit suggested mission statements for the company. Forty-five statements were suggested that provided input for the final one formulated. The new mission statement was launched at an employee appreciation event in early October. “We are glad to see so many of our employees involved,” Wiegand says. “A big part of our vision is to have a really effective team at every level.”

To maintain those teams, Wiegand supervises approximately fifty employees responsible for land, health, safety, environmental compliance, and internal auditing. One lawyer and a paralegal are on staff, and the rest of CONSOL Energy’s legal work is outsourced to different law firms.

To increase efficiency and provide savings for that outsourcing, CONSOL Energy and one of its outside law firms is testing new litigation management software. “All information will be in one place,” Wiegand points out, “and the new software will allow us to have up-to-date information on a more real-time basis and to evaluate synergies and commonalities among cases that will be extremely useful in the future.”

Because Wiegand supervises teams of specialists in highly technical areas, she has developed a hands-off management style and leads by example. “I seek to understand what people do and then guide them, and then also try to figure out what motivates people,” she says. “How can we help people do their jobs more efficiently? So a person out in the field in one location who is manually measuring to make sure the water tested complies with relevant standards could instead be using a more tech-driven automated process to improve accuracy and efficiencies for the workforce.”

For the future, Wiegand sees advancing to higher levels of management as a possible career path while still using her legal background. Her advice to others is to be flexible in career planning. “I thought I wanted to do real estate law,” she says. “If I stuck to the plan, I’m not sure I would be very happy right now. But if you are more open-minded and go where the opportunities take you, that probably makes for greater personal satisfaction and more opportunities to consider.”

Photos courtesy of CONSOL Energy

“It is such a pleasure to see Martha get the recognition she deserves.  Jackson Kelly is proud to partner with Martha and Consol in the very important work they do.  Martha brings great energy and insight to a very important job and industry.” —M. Shane Harvey, Member, Jackson Kelly PLLC

“Leech Tishman congratulates Martha Wiegand on this well-deserved recognition. It has been our distinct pleasure to partner with a lawyer as bright as Martha on a range of employment and corporate matters. Our firm shares CONSOL Energy’s commitment to making practical, cost-effective decisions to support their continued success.” —David J. DelFiandra, Partner at Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl, LLC