fresh voices from the front lines of change







In 2007, six coal miners were trapped, never to be found, in Utah’s Crandall Canyon mine. On the day after the mine initially collapsed, the mine owner, Robert Murray of Murray Energy, began a press conference not with the plans for finding his employees, but with attacks on Congress for considering legislation to stop global warming:

…my name is Bob Murray. I’m the founder, chairman, president of a company called Murray Energy Corporation. I built the company starting with a mortgaged home; the United States of America’s a great country. And today we have 3,300 employees in five states. We produce a product that is essential to the standard of living of every American, because our coal produces 52 percent of the energy in America today and it is the lowest cost energy, costing one-third to one-fourth the cost of energy from natural gas, nuclear and renewable resources. And without coal to manufacture our electricity, our products will not compete in the global marketplace against foreign countries, because our manufacturers depend on coal, low-cost electricity and people on fixed incomes will not be able to pay their electric bills. And every one of these global warming bills that has been introduced in Congress today to eliminate the coal industry and will increase your electric rates four to five-fold.

He also blamed the collapse on an earthquake, a claim which was debunked by seismologists. The Murray Energy-affiliated mining operator was eventually slapped with one of the biggest fines on record for coal-related safety violations.

Murray Energy likes to sue to avoid having to follow regulations, or simply face criticism. It already sued the EPA this year claiming it doesn’t consider job losses when issuing regulations. It sued the Labor Department to block a rule designed to reduce black lung disease. It sued a newspaper because of a critical blog post that cited the company’s guilty plea for Clean Water Act violations.

In addition to being defensively litigious, Murray is also offensively bullying. Two whisteblowers told The New Republic that the company was coercing employees to support Mitt Romney for president.

This is the caliber of gentleman now leading the fight against President Obama’s climate regulations, by claiming they are illegal. The Hill reports:

While not committing to filing a lawsuit to challenge the rule, Murray spokesman Gary Broadbent said Wednesday that the rules, along with other climate change rules from the Obama administration, are illegal. “The Obama administration’s proposed cap-and-tax mandates are absolutely illegal and will destroy millions of jobs, cripple the American economy, and cause massive blackouts in this country,” Broadbent said.
“We will take all available measures to obtain expedited judicial review of these illegal actions and to combat these fundamentally flawed and economically devastating cap-and-tax mandates,” he continued. In an interview with West Virginia Executive magazine last month, Murray Chief Executive Officer Bob Murray said climate change is a lie and the EPA has no authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

Not all of industry is reacting as obnoxiously and dishonestly as Murray. As I’ve noted before the proposed rules were greeted positively by the utility industry and the natural gas industry. This is not a fight between all of corporate America and the federal government.

But it is a fight between decency and Robert Murray.

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