Environment

Coal Baron Against Black Lung Regulations Says He Has Black Lung

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

It was at least a little staggering when I considered how long it's been, but if you've been following along over the past eight years, you're probably familiar with Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray.

Murray become famous or infamous when he forced his coal miners to lose a day's worth of work and pay so they could appear in campaign ad for former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 (pictured above). Murray subsequently fired hundreds of his own workers after President Obama was reelected because, in his words, the "takers outvoted the producers;" with the "producers" being men like him, we can infer, and the "takers" being his own employees.

Murray resurfaced in 2016 to campaign for Trump who promised he would resurrect the dead and dying coal industry. Part of that plan was a largely successful effort to roll back or eliminate Obama-era safety regulations, among other things, and oppose any new efforts to expand testing and access to treatment for black lung disease.

Rolling back those regulations isn't saving the industry or anyone's job, but it is saving executives like Murray a little money; executives who are on their own way out the door in more ways than one.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting reports that Murray has now filed for black lung benefits even though he doesn't believe in such things.

Robert E. Murray, the former CEO and president of the now-bankrupt Murray Energy, has filed an application with the U.S. Department of Labor for black lung benefits. For years, Murray and his company fought against federal mine safety regulations aimed at reducing the debilitating disease. [...]

In his claim, Murray, who is now 80 years old, writes that he is heavily dependent on the oxygen tank he is frequently seen using, and is “near death.”

North American Coal Corporation is named as one potentially liable party in Murray’s claim for the benefits. According to documents associated with his claim, he states that he was employed by the company from May 1957 to October 1987 — where he ascended through its ranks, first as a miner before taking on the role of president.

Reached by phone, Murray declined an on-the-record interview for this story. Murray said he has black lung from working in underground mines and is entitled to benefits. Additionally, he disputed that he ever fought against regulations to quell the disease or fought miners from receiving benefits.

Murray also threatened to file a lawsuit if a story was published that indicated he had fought federal regulations and benefits.

Murray previously denied that he may have black lung diseased associated working in underground mines, but Murray's application for benefit explicitly states that his illness stems from working in -- check notes -- underground mines.

If I had sympathy for anyone, it would be Murray's former employees and certainly not the man himself. A lot of coal miners signed up for the job because they had no other good choices in Appalachia and many of those applying for black lung benefits today contracted it from work performed in the 1970s and 80s.

There's at least some evidence that attitudes on the ground are changing with an increasing number of coal miners and their families coming to grips with the fact that the industry is never coming back. They should vote for Joe Biden who actually has economic plans for investing in the region, not Donald Trump who is just going to serve them more empty promises of a resurrection.

Don't vote for people who want you broke and dead.