Murray Energy Corporation
The Murray Energy Corporation is a coal mining company producing produces approximately 30 million tons of high quality bituminous coal per year. It has operations in southern Ohio, in southwestern Pennsylvania, the Illinois Basin (Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois), and central Utah.
Salt Lake City-based coal miner UtahAmerican Energy is a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corporation. UtahAmerican is a company with approximately $65.1 million in annual sales in 2008, and was started in 1996.
Coal slurry spills
In October 2010, water contaminated with coal dust "spilled" for the fourth time since 2000 into a Belmont County creek that is home to an endangered salamander, Ohio state agencies reported. The coal slurry - water used to wash newly mined coal and filled with potentially toxic heavy metals - came from a pipeline that runs from Murray Energy's Century Mine across Captina Creek to the company's Ohio Valley coal waste slurry impoundment, said Mike Shelton, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The break occurred in a joint in the pipeline about 250 feet north of the creek in a hayfield, Shelton said, spilling slurry into the field and the creek.
The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) estimates the spill at about one quarter of a million gallons. According to the OEC, 7 leaks were found in Murray Energy's impoundment pond and two were in the pipeline, one in 2005 and then this 2010 spill. The 2005 pipeline spill cost Murray Energy $50,000 dollars in fines for killing thousands of fish and polluting a half mile of the same creek. In this spill, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division Spokesman Mike Shelton said, "so far 3500 fish and 850 other salamander, crayfish and frogs died in the creek."
Murray Energy was denied a permit to build a new slurry pond in 2008 by the Ohio EPA, but have applied again for another permit to build a pond.
Ohio's environmental agencies are seeking $91,000 in damages from Murray's American Energy for the Oct. 1 coal slurry spill.
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Crandall Canyon Mine Disaster
Crandall Canyon Mine was an underground, bituminous coal mine in northwestern Emery County, Utah, owned by UtahAmerican Energy, a subsidiary of Murray Energy, and was located about 15 miles (24 km) west north-west of Huntington, Utah. On August 6, 2007, at 2:48 A.M., the mine collapsed, trapping 6 workers inside. The workers were approximately 3.4 miles (5.5 km) from the mine entrance and 1500 feet (457 m) underground. The collapse registered recorded seismic waves in magnitude 3.9 to 4.0, by seismograph stations of the University of Utah.
A Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) report the mine was "destined to fail" because the mining company made critical miscalculations and didn't report early warning signs. MSHA itself was faulted by the Department of Labor, of which MSHA is an agency, for lax oversight before the collapse, and for mismanaging the failed rescue attempt.
The largest mining fine until the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster was levied against Murray Energy for the Crandall collapse: $1.85 million for 20 citations, including nine that were "contributory."
CEO Murray and political donations
2010 election and climate denial
In February 2010, Murray Energy’s political committee and executives, including CEO Robert Murray, combined to contribute nearly $25,000 to California GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina’s campaign against Barbara Boxer, the incumbent Democrat. (At the same Ohio fundraiser, Fiorina obtained an additional $39,000 from Midwestern companies that sell coal mining equipment and supplies.)
In May 2010, Murray Energy donated $30,000 to California’s Proposition 23, which would suspend the state’s AB 32 anti-global warming measure until the state economy rebounds from the recession. Another donor, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a Washington, D.C.-lobbying group, gave $5,000. Prop. 23 is sponsored by the energy industry, and its biggest booster is the Valero Energy from San Antonio, Texas.
It is assumed that the company targeted Boxer and the anti-AB 32 proposition because of CEO Murray, who has dismissed global warming as “hysterical global goofiness." Murray and Boxer went head-to-head over the issue at a 2007 Senate hearing on environment and public works. Former Vice President Al Gore and "Silent Spring" author Rachel Carson were also criticized by Murray, who said: "The hysterical and out-of-control climate change or global warming issue, and the legislation that you have proposed, will lead to the deterioration of the American standard of living and the accelerated exportation of more of our jobs to China and other developing countries, which have repeatedly advised, as recent as last week, that they will not limit their carbon dioxide emissions.... Albert Gore touts that his role model has always been Rachel Carson, with her picture on his wall, who led the environmental movement to ban DDT. She and her environmental followers killed millions of human beings around the world with the ban on DDT, which has since been found by the World Health Organization to be very safe to humans in controlling global epidemics."
Employee Donations and Coercion
In May 2012, Murray hosted a $1.7 million fund-raiser for Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whom Murray employees had thus far given more than $120,000 for the 102 election cycle. The accounts of two sources who have worked in managerial positions at Murray, and a review of letters and memos to Murray employees, suggest that Murray has for years pressured salaried employees to give to the Murray Energy political action committee (PAC) and to Republican candidates chosen by the company. Internal documents show that company officials track who is and is not giving. The sources say that those who do not give are at risk of being demoted or missing out on bonuses, claims Murray denies. Yet the Murray sources say that, at the time of hiring, supervisors tell employees that they are expected to contribute to the company PAC by automatic payroll deduction – typically 1 percent of their salary, a level confirmed by a 2008 letter to employees from the PAC’s treasurer. Employees are given a form to sign, explaining that the giving is "voluntary."
Employee Attendance at Romney Event "Mandatory"
Mitt Romney visited Murray Energy's Century Mine in August 2012 to promote jobs in the coal industry. Hundreds of coal miners and their families attended. It was later found that Murray's Pepper Pike company told workers that attending the Romney event would be both mandatory and unpaid, a top company official said in a West Virginia radio interview.
Asked about workers' complaints, Murray Energy COO Robert Moore told WWVA radio, "Attendance was mandatory but no one was forced to attend the event." However, the mine was closed and workers were not paid for the day, accoridng to the L.A. Times.
Existing Coal Mines
Purchase of Consol mines
On October 28, 2013, Consol Energy said it was selling five of its longwall coal mines — about half of its production capacity — to focus instead on natural gas and on mines that produce coal for export. The five mines are being sold to Murray Energy, and are worth $3.5 billion to $4.4 billion. Consol said it would receive $850 million in cash and $184 million in value from future payments, and Murray would take on $2.4 billion in liabilities, including worker pensions.
Murray Energy Corporation
29325 Chagrin Boulevard
Pepper Pike, Ohio 44122
Email: info AT coalsource.com
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- Murray Energy Corporation, "History", Murray Energy Corporation website, accessed June 2009.
- "Utah American Energy, Inc." ZipperPages.com, November 2009
- Doug Caruso, "Coal slurry spill threatens Belmont County creek" The Columbus Dispatch, Oct. 1, 2010.
- Rick Reitzel, "Ohio Coal Company Has A Large Coal Slurry Spill" NBC, Oct. 6, 2010.
- Casey Junkins, "$91,000 Slurry Spill Fine Appealed" The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register, April 21, 2011.
- "6 miners trapped in Utah coal mine collapse" CNN.com, August 6, 2007
- "Year after mine collapse, many failures clear", Associated Press, Aug. 6, 2008
- Kris Maher, "Record Fine Seen in Mining Disaster" Wall Street Journal, Dec. 6, 2011.
- Lance Williams, "Ohio coal company that backed Fiorina also gave to Prop. 23" CA Watch Blog, July 27, 2010.
- Stephen Lacey, "Coal Workers Say Murray Energy ‘Coerces’ Them To Make GOP Donations: ‘If You Don’t Contribute, Your Job’s At Stake,’" Climate Progress, Oct 5, 2012.
- Sabrina Eaton, "Coal miners lost pay when Mitt Romney visited their mine to promote coal jobs," The Plain Dealer, August 28, 2012.
- Neela Banerjee, "Ohio miners say they were forced to attend Romney rally," L.A. Ties, August 29, 2012.
- Matthew Wald, "Consol to Sell 5 Coal Mines To Murray," NY Times, Oct 28, 2013.
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