Robert E. Murray
Robert E. Murray
|Born||January 13, 1940|
|Residence||Moreland Hills, Ohio, U.S.|
|Alma mater||Ohio State University|
West Virginia University
|Spouse(s)||Brenda Lou Moore|
Robert E. Murray (born January 13, 1940) is an American mining engineer and businessman. He is the chief executive officer of Murray Energy Corporation, a mining corporation based in St. Clairsville, Ohio. He is one of the largest independent operators of coal mines in the United States.
Murray was born in 1940. His father was paralyzed in a mining accident when Murray was 9 years old. As a miner himself, Murray experienced two accidents on the job. Meanwhile, Murray lied about his age so he could work in a coal mine at the age of 16 and provide for his family. Murray says that he suffered through several mining accidents, including on one occasion being hit in the head with an 18-foot (5.5 m) beam made of steel. Murray says he has one scar running from his head down his back from a separate accident and at one time was trapped in a dark mine for 12 hours before being rescued.
Murray was valedictorian of the Bethesda High School class of 1957. Murray received a Bachelor of Engineering in Mining from Ohio State University, and attended the six-week advanced management program at the Harvard Graduate School of Business.
Murray began his mining career at the North American Coal Corporation. He served in a variety of capacities at NACC, winning election to vice president of operations in 1969. From 1974 to 1983, Murray was president of NACC's Western Division and presided over four of its subsidiaries in North Dakota. In 1974, a strike took place at the Indian Head Mine in Zap, which North American was attempting to close. In 1983, he became president and CEO of North American. In 1987, Murray was told by "someone to whom [he] didn't even report" that he was "done" at NACC. He later called the firing "the best thing ever to happen" to his career.
Murray is a registered Professional Engineer and private pilot, as well as a member of the boards of directors of the National Mining Association, American Coal Foundation, National Coal Council, Ohio Coal Association, and Pennsylvania Coal Association. Murray is past president and a trustee of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc., and the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, Inc., as well as past president of The Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute.
Murray started his company in 1988 with the purchase of a single continuous mining operation with an annual output of 1 million tons per year. Murray Energy Corporation's strategy involves acquiring high sulfur coal reserves and aiming to be the low-cost producer in primary coal-sourcing regions of the United States. This strategy was based on Murray's belief that the transportation of low-sulfur coal thousands of miles from the Powder River Basin to meet the growing demand for electricity in some parts of the country was not a viable long-term solution. At the helm of Murray Energy, he began accumulating reserves that were strategically located near customers, near favorable transportation, and high in energy content (BTU per pound).
Following this strategy, Murray Energy acquired reserves and expanded its operations in Southern Ohio, Southwestern Pennsylvania, the Illinois Basin (Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois), and reserves and operations in Central Utah. One of Murray Energy's first acquisitions was the Powhatan No. 6 mine in Alledonia, Ohio. The Powhatan mine is the only mine operated by a Murray Energy Corporation independent operating subsidiary that is unionized.  Murray Energy Corporation produces approximately 30 million tons of bituminous coal each year and employs approximately 3,000 people in the United States.
In addition to its mining operations, Murray Energy owns and operates river, truck, and rail terminals on the Ohio River; a rail loadout facility in Central Utah; and a diesel and mining equipment rebuild facility in West Virginia.
Mr. Murray told the White House in a letter dated August 4, 2017 that without an emergency order to restart coal-fired electrical generating plants, his company and a major customer, power plant operator FirstEnergy Solutions would declare bankruptcy.
Crandall Canyon Mine collapse
In August 2007 six miners were trapped at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah, of which Murray Energy independent operating subsidiary UtahAmerican Energy had been a part-owner for 12 months. Prior to the collapse, the Crandall Canyon Mine had received 64 violations and $12,000 in fines. He says that the safety violations were trivial and included violations such as not having enough toilet paper in the restroom. However, some news agencies reported troubling violations at other Murray operations. CNN specifically cited Murray's Illinois Galatia mine, which had almost 3,500 safety citations in the prior two and a half years.
Murray claims that the Crandall Canyon Mine collapse was triggered by a 3.9 magnitude earthquake, while government seismologists say the mine collapse was the cause of a coal mine bump. Richard E. Stickler, the government's top mine safety official said "It was not—and I repeat, it was not—a natural occurring earthquake."
Douglas S. Dreger, a seismologist at the University of California, Berkeley, said in the July 2008 issue of Science that his analysis strongly suggested that the mountain crumbled in two stages: After the pillars collapsed, giant, angled slabs of sandstone above the mine abruptly shifted. When the mine collapse finally occurred, it was so powerful that it registered as a 3.9 earthquake.
On July 24, 2008, the U.S. government's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced its highest penalty for coal mine safety violations, $1.85 million, for the collapse. The government fined Genwal Resources $1.34 million "for violations that directly contributed to the deaths of six miners last year," plus nearly $300,000 for other violations. The government also levied a $220,000 fine against a mining consultant, Agapito Associates, "for faulty analysis of the mine's design."
Following the Crandall Canyon tragedy, the Mine Safety and Health Administration also was faulted by its parent agency, the U.S. Department of Labor, both for lax oversight before the collapse and for its handling of a haphazard rescue effort that left three more people dead. An independent review of MSHA's role in Crandall Canyon by retired MSHA managers Earnest Teaster and Joseph Pavlovich, found that the agency failed to properly consider bounce activity in the mine prior to approving the mining plan, failed to properly evaluate the roof control plan and failed to follow established mine rescue protocols at all times at Crandall Canyon Mine. Specifically, the authors wrote that, "MSHA's failure to adequately evaluate the roof control plans contributed to the August 6 accident." An independent review of MSHA's actions at Crandall Canyon also faults the agency for failing to control access to the mine, concluding that "MSHA improperly allowed media representatives and family members to enter the rescue area, and allowed an unlimited number of persons underground during the rescue operation."
Since 2005, the Murray Energy PAC has donated over $150,000 to Republican candidates, including donations totaling $30,000 to Senate candidates such as George Allen, Sam Brownback, and Katherine Harris. The Ohio Valley Coal PAC, another group affiliated with Murray Energy, donated $10,000 for George W. Bush's 2000 Presidential campaign.
In 2009, Murray Energy donated $20,000 to support the development of a state-of-the-art mine training facility at West Virginia University  and $10,000 to support the construction of a similar facility at Southeastern Illinois College. Murray also made a personal gift of $1 million to the West Virginia University Research Trust Fund—the largest single donation in the fund's history—and the university established the Robert E. Murray Chairmanship of Mining Engineering in his honor.
In addition to serving on the board of directors of the National Mining Association, Murray actively lobbies for pro-industry legislation through his company's political action committee. In 2001, he testified on behalf of the NMA before a House Ways and Means subcommittee in favor of proposed tax cuts.
In the wake of 2006's Sago Mine disaster, lawmakers in West Virginia and Ohio proposed legislation requiring mine workers to wear emergency tracking devices. Murray lobbied against the laws, calling them "extremely misguided." He said that politicians were rushing to pass laws and thus "playing politics with the safety of my employees." Murray said that rather than create "knee-jerk" state laws after the disaster, such as in the case of West Virginia, which passed the law in less than one day after it was proposed, the federal government should host a panel which would study the industry and make recommendations for safety measures.
Murray claimed that the federal government should be involved for uniform standards and because tension between unions and companies created difficulty in reaching private agreement on safety standards. Murray maintained that the personal tracking devices to be mandated in the state laws, called PEDs, did not work under certain common mining conditions (such as below 600 feet (180 m) in depth), and better devices needed to be developed in order to effectively guard miners in case of accident. He said, "The will is there. Unfortunately, the technology isn't."
On August 14, 2012, Murray hosted Mitt Romney at Murray Energy's Century coal mine in Beallsville, Ohio. Several miners contacted a nearby morning talk radio host, David Blomquist to complain that they were forced to attend the rally without pay. Murray chief operating officer Robert Moore said: "Attendance was mandatory but no one was forced to attend the event." Murray closed the mine the day of the rally and suspended pay to workers, arguing that the rally was important to the coal industry and that attending was in the workers' "best interest." Murray and his corporation were a major donor to Romney and other Republicans, and employees report frequent instances of political pressure from management.
In October 2012, the non-profit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Murray and his company alleging violations of federal campaign law in which employees of Murray Energy were supposedly required to give one percent of their salary to the company's political action committee.
Murray has filed over a dozen defamation lawsuits against journalists and newspapers, none of which reached judgment in his favor. On August 27, 2012, Robert Murray and Murray Energy filed a lawsuit against environment reporter Ken Ward Jr. and the Charleston Gazette. The lawsuit alleges Ken Ward Jr. posted libelous statements on his blog. Murray claims the blog post entitled "Mitt Romney, Murray Energy and Coal Criminals" has damaged his business, reputation, and has jeopardized the jobs Murray Energy provides in Belmont County, Ohio.
In June 2017, Murray Energy issued a cease and desist letter to the television show Last Week Tonight following the show's attempt to obtain comment about the coal industry. The show went ahead with the episode (June 18), in which host John Oliver discussed the Crandall Canyon Mine collapse and expressed the opinion that Murray did not do enough to protect his miners' safety. Three days later, Murray and his companies brought suit against Oliver, the show's writers, HBO, and Time Warner. The lawsuit alleged that, in the Last Week Tonight show, Oliver "incited viewers to do harm to Mr. Murray and his companies." The ACLU filed an amicus brief in support of HBO in the case; the brief has been described as "hilarious," and the "snarkiest legal brief ever." The brief also included a comparison of Murray with the fictional character Dr. Evil that was used in the Oliver show, with the explanation that "it should be remembered that truth is an absolute defense to a claim of defamation."
On August 11, 2017 a federal district court judge ruled that Murray Energy suits against the New York Times and HBO could each proceed in a lower state court. The suit against HBO was dismissed with prejudice on February 21, 2018.
Murray has been a critic of the scientific opinion on climate change. In June 2007, he told the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that "the science of global warming is suspect." He also wrote in a May 2007 MarketWatch editorial: "The actual environmental risk associated with carbon emissions is highly speculative."
Murray is a particular opponent of proposed global warming legislation in Congress, saying:
We produce a product that is essential to the standard of living of every American because our coal produces 52% of the energy in America today, and it is the lowest cost energy, costing 1/3 to 1/4 the cost of energy from natural gas, nuclear and renewable energy resources. And without coal to manufacture 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. Every one of those global warming bills that have been introduced into Congress today eliminates the coal industry and will increase your electric rates, four to five fold.
Following the presidential election in November 2016, Murray pressed for Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from all international agreements on climate change and stated "so-called global warming is a total hoax."
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