Coal executive says UMWA contract agreement essential for continued operations

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As United Mine Workers of America members continue contract meetings, a coal executive implores agreement calling it a necessary part of his company’s plan to continue operations.

Bob Murray is the president of Murray Energy which owns more than a dozen mines in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and three other states. He was a guest Wednesday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

“The United Mine Workers turned it down last time. It is essential, the approval of it, to complete our four step program to avoid financial default in October,” Murray said.

Murray announced in July that 4,400 employees, 80 percent of his workforce, could lose their jobs. WARN notices were sent out.

“I’ve worked night and day for 29 years building this company and creating these jobs only to have them destroyed by Barack Obama and his excessive regulations,” Murray claimed. “Those regulations are coming out against coal, against the utilization of coal as well as the mining of coal faster than we can read them.”

According to Murray, his coal company has a four-part plan for continuing operations under current regulations. It includes a renegotiated contract with union workers, refinancing of a subsidiary, working with Murray Energy electricity utility customers on contract pricing and language and consulting with lenders about debt.

Murray has long argued the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan is a death sentence for the coal industry. The mining executive told “Talkine” Host Hoppy Kercheval Mine Safety Health Administration inspections, including two days last week, are excessive and cutting into production potential.

“That means I had to take 89 management people off of inspecting the mines, off of doing safety training. It has nothing to do with safety. It is total harassment. Eighty-nine inspectors for 15 mines,” Murray recounted.

Like the West Virginia Coal Association, Murray pins the coal industry’s future on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Murray said he had one-on-one discussions with the candidate in May and June.

“I said to him I wish you’d stay more with your script. It doesn’t sound presidential to condemn women or minorities, but that’s not the Donald Trump that I know,” Murray explained. “In a private setting, he’s all business. He asks a lot of questions.   He’ll surround himself with the best people. He will help the coal industry.”

Murray hosted a Trump dinner in Wheeling in support of the candidate.

Meanwhile, the UMWA is holding three meetings statewide with miners and their spouses regarding contract benefits and a tentative agreement with the Bituminous Coal Operators Association which is made up of a number of Murray Energy mines.

The first was Tuesday in Wheeling. The second was Wednesday in Morgantown. The final meeting will take place Thursday at Centerville Senior Center in Centerville, Ohio.

A contract announcement could be made Friday.

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