What next for Murray Energy?

April 18, 2014 by Ken Ward Jr.

Robert Murray

The first report I saw about the latest news regarding Murray Energy came from the Observer-Reporter in southwestern Pennsylvania:

Murray Energy Corp. confirmed Wednesday it will terminate medical coverage of nearly 1,200 Consol Energy retirees who worked in coal mines that Murray purchased 16 months ago.

It said benefits for those salaried retirees – medical, prescription drug and life insurance – will be halted Dec. 31. The cutoff will not apply to union members, and will affect 161 households in Pennsylvania.

Murray Energy confirmed the move in this prepared statement:

Murray Energy Corporation (“Murray Energy”) has confirmed that, as of December 31, 2014, and in keeping with Murray Energy’s historic practice, it will not be able to provide retiree medical coverage to salaried retirees of Murray American Energy, Inc., formerly Consolidation Coal Company (“Consolidation Coal”).

Murray Energy’s inability to provide these benefits is, in part, due to the destruction of the coal industry, including our markets, by the Obama
Administration and its appointees and supporters, who have eliminated the livelihoods of thousands of coal miners, and their families, by the forced closing of 392 coal-fired electric power plants in America, now and in the immediate future. Due to these actions and devastated coal markets, Murray Energy is unable to support these benefits.

Murray Energy is making this announcement at this time to allow affected salaried retirees of Consolidation Coal the opportunity to make other arrangements. Over eighty percent (80%) of the lost benefits can be made up with Medicare. Also, these former Consolidation Coal retirees have good pension benefits. The Company has provided these salaried retirees with information on and access to alternate coverage.

What’s interesting about the release is that, while Murray blames its action on President Obama’s policies, the statement notes that dropping these retiree health-care benefits is “in keeping with Murray Energy’s historic practice.”  I asked Murray Energy media director Gary Broadbent about this, but he declined to comment about this internal contradiction, saying in an e-mail message:

You have our statement.  That is all we have to say.

Another very interesting development was this statement issued by CONSOL Energy:

As part of the transaction, which closed in the fourth quarter of 2013 where Murray Energy acquired CONSOL Energy’s five West Virginia coal mines, we insisted that Murray Energy continue to provide retiree health insurance to our former salaried employees for at least one year.  CONSOL Energy’s hope and expectation was that Murray Energy would honor these obligations beyond the one year period that was negotiated as part of our agreement.  While we respect the fact that Murray Energy is a different company with different priorities, this is an unfortunate and disappointing decision.

Have I missed all of the commentary from West Virginia political leaders about this particular turn of events impacting coal industry retirees?

3 Responses to “What next for Murray Energy?”

  1. Ted says:

    Come on Friends of Coal–tell us how good this is for the retirees and the region and what a “friend” coal it to us…

    You certainly won’t be “keeping the lights on” for these folks.

  2. Jim Sconyers says:

    Murray didn’t mess with union retirees. I guess they learned a lesson from Patriot’s experience. “The people united…..”

  3. steve says:

    The above quote states that Murray Energy blames their decision “in part” not all on the Obama administrations decisions on the coal industry. I would also say that the affordable care act played a factor in this decision, if I were to make a guess. Being a salary employee sometimes comes with its own downside that should be considered closely when one takes a position. At least they will have seven months to sign up. They could have waited until November to have been told. Business, pure and simple.

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