Energy & Environment

Coal mining giant Murray Energy Corp. has emerged from bankruptcy with a new name and a commitment to rehire all of its former union employees, according to a news release from the United Mine Workers of America.

UMWA President Cecil Roberts said on Wednesday that a new collective bargaining agreement has been finalized between the coal miners union and American Consolidated Natural Resources Inc., which took over Murray Energy’s assets.

“There is much to be concerned about for those of us associated with and working in the coal industry during these troubling times, but it is good that this process has finally been completed and our members can put the uncertainty of the bankruptcy behind them,” he said.

Murray Energy was formerly the largest privately-owned underground coal mining company in the country with a substantial footprint across the Ohio Valley. The company produced low-cost bituminous coal at mines located close to its customers — largely coal-fired power plants. As coal-fired generators have closed, that has posed challenges for the company’s business model.

Founder and CEO Bob Murray has close ties to President Donald Trump, including appearing at events in West Virginia with the president and donating $300,000 to his inauguration. Murray has helped shape the administration’s environmental agenda, including promoting policies that loosened restrictions on the U.S. coal industry.

The Ohio-based company declared bankruptcy last fall, citing billions of dollars in debt, healthcare and pension liabilities. In court filings, company executives said tough market conditions for coal was one of the major factors that pushed the coal giant toward bankruptcy.

The court process unearthed new information about spending by Murray executives, including multi-million dollar cash bonuses, and what some creditors described as a “disturbing pattern of self dealing and abuse of corporate resources.” UMWA officials have also been watching the bankruptcy process closely. Murray Energy was the last major company contributing to the union’s pension plan.

Based at WVPB in Morgantown, WV, Brittany Patterson covers all things energy and environment.