#1 Utah company blames Pres. Obama for 102 workers laid off11-10-2012, 10:49 AM
EAST CARBON, Carbon County — A Utah coal company owned by a vocal critic of President Barack Obama has laid off 102 miners.
The layoffs at the West Ridge Mine are effective immediately, according to UtahAmerican Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp. They were announced in a short statement made public Thursday, two days after Obama won re-election.
The layoffs are necessary because of the president's "war on coal," the statement said. The slogan is one used frequently during the election by Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, who was an ardent supporter of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
In its statement, UtahAmerican Energy blames the Obama administration for instituting policies that will close down "204 American coal-fired power plants by 2014" and for drastically reducing the market for coal.
11-10-2012, 01:55 PM
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Neither would specifically bar coal-fired power plants, but experts say it would be nearly impossible to build an affordable new coal plant that could meet the limits. The proposals, some which had begun under George W. Bush's administration, wouldn't affect coal plants now in use or being built.
Obama, who during his 2008 campaign said builders of new coal-powered plants will go bankrupt from emissions standards he would enact, now espouses an "all of the above" energy strategy that includes coal.
"The president has made clear that coal has an important role to play in our energy economy today and it will in the future, which is why this administration has worked to make sure that moving forward we can continue to rely on a broad range of domestic energy sources from oil and gas, to wind and solar, to nuclear, as well as clean coal," Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman, said recently.
What's happening in the coal industry is more than a seasonal slump or a response to new regulations; even coal executives admit it's a fundamental shift. Many utilities have switched from coal to cheaper natural gas for electricity generation, pushing up coal stockpiles at power plants and forcing mining companies to sharply cut production.
When St. Louis-based Patriot Coal filed for bankruptcy in July, it didn't mention a war on coal but cited "a major correction" in the industry and "new realities in the market," including fierce, sustainable competition of natural gas. But St. Louis-based Arch Coal Inc. blamed market pressures and a challenging regulatory backdrop in its June announcement it would lay off about 750 Appalachian coal workers.
A recent rebound in natural gas prices has buoyed hopes among coal producers that power plants increasingly will shift back to coal, though they say pressure on the industry could persist well into next year.
Murray Energy was the parent company of a Utah coal mine that collapsed in 2007, killing six miners and three members of a rescue team. Earlier this year, Murray Energy affiliates paid nearly $1 million in safety fines for the disaster and settled a criminal case for $500,000. (how pious)
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