Monday, May 02, 2016

Outspoken Murray Energy CEO leads coal's charge against Obama, environmental regulations

Robert E. Murray, CEO and owner of Murray Energy Corp., the largest independent coal producer in the U.S., is no stranger to controversy, or to saying what's on his mind, Jad Mouawad reports for The New York Times. With the rapid decline of coal, and natural gas expected to take over coal this year as the nation's most dominant source of power (NYT graphic), Murray has been directing much of his focus, and criticism, at President Obama and stopping the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan.

Murray "has filed more than a half dozen lawsuits against the administration, including several challenging its landmark policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants." Mouawad writes. "In February, he scored a big victory when the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the administration’s plan until an appeals court can consider an expedited challenge this summer. The expansion of its mining business at a time of deep industry disillusionment, coupled with an activist agenda, has made Murray Energy one of the leading forces combating environmental regulations. And it has made Murray a galvanizing champion of a once dominant industry fallen on hard times."

Robert Murray
Murray has made news for a long time. Last year he was accused of threatening to fire employees for reporting safety violations, and was later ordered by a judge to personally tell miners their rights. In 2012 he was accused of forcing employees to donate to Republicans. Also that year Murray Energy agreed to pay the third largest penalty for violations related to coal mine deaths, at his Utah mine.

"For him, any attempt to regulate pollution from power plants is a plot not only to destroy coal producers in the U.S. but also to take control of the nation’s electrical supply," Mouawad writes. "He blames regulators in Washington intent on accumulating power and handpicking winners and losers. 'What it is is a political power grab of America’s power grid to change our country in a diabolical, if not evil, way,' he says. 'Thank you, Obama!' As the nation struggles to come to terms with greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and mining’s environmental toll, Murray stands at the center of the economic, social and political debate. His life goal is to see that coal production in America remains vibrant—even as his critics say he is waging a doomed, rear-guard battle against inevitability."

Murray has repeatedly held firm that humans are not responsible for global warming, Mouawad writes. Murray said, "This is a human issue for me. It kills me. Lives are being destroyed deliberately by some and by the ignorance of most. The coal industry is being destroyed. And it’s scary to me because electricity is a staple of life—like potatoes were to the Irish. And Obama has largely destroyed reliable, low-cost, affordable electricity in America.” (Read more)

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