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Murray cuts 214 coal jobs in three W.Va. counties

WHEELING, W.Va. – Fifty-nine miners at Murray Energy Corp.’s Ohio County Mine and 128 employees at Murray’s Marshall County Mine are now out of work, with industry and company leaders citing environmental regulations as the culprit.

In addition to these Upper Ohio Valley workers, 27 hourly employees at Murray’s Harrison County Mine also lost their jobs, bringing the total to 214 West Virginia-based coal miners now in the unemployment line.

“We regret that, due to the ongoing destruction of the U.S. coal industry by President Barack Obama and his supporters; by the increased utilization of natural gas to generate electricity; and by the extremely excessive coal severance tax in the state of West Virginia, some reductions have been necessary,” said Gary Broadbent, spokesman for St. Clairsville-based Murray Energy.

Although Murray operates both union and non-union mines, the Marshall County employees are represented by the United Mine Workers of America. Cecil Roberts, UMWA president, said affluent people in coastal states are working to destroy those in Appalachia. He placed the blame on former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and members of the San Francisco-based Sierra Club for leading the charge.

“Billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s additional $30 million contribution to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign is an affront to every working and retired coal miner, their families and their communities. It provides yet more ammunition for an effort that has and apparently will continue to put the lives, health and well-being of hundreds of thousands at risk in Appalachia and elsewhere,” Roberts said. “By shutting down coal-fired power, this campaign is making it ever more difficult for those working in coal mines to keep their jobs, meaning not just a loss of income but also a loss of family health care and other benefits working coal miners earn.”

“We may be invisible from the skyscrapers of New York and the mountains of California, but we are here nonetheless. We have long, sad experience with powerful elites dictating what we do and how we live, but we have also learned to fight back,” Roberts added.

The Sierra Club refers to coal as an “outdated, backward, and dirty 19th-century technology.”

“The single biggest reduction in carbon pollution in the U.S. has come by retiring and repurposing coal-fired power plants – and that’s the direct result of our Beyond Coal campaign,” Bloomberg said. “Thanks to the community leaders who have spearheaded this work, the U.S. led every industrialized nation in reducing carbon emissions last year. But much more work remains, and today we are doubling down on what has proven to be an incredibly successful strategy for improving public health and fighting climate change.”

Meanwhile, Murray paid $3.5 billion to acquire five Consol mines in West Virginia in late 2013, including the aforementioned operations. Broadbent said no workers at the mines in Marion or Monongalia counties have been laid off at this time.

Locally, Murray also owns the Century Mine and the Powhatan No. 6 Mine in Alledonia. Overall, the firm now operates 12 underground mines in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Illinois and Kentucky. The company produced about 64 million tons of underground coal worth about $3.6 billion in 2014.

The 214 Mountain State layoffs come as Murray announced plans last week to pay $1.37 billion for a 34 percent stake in St. Louis-based coal company, Foresight Energy.

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