CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin say that they are closely monitoring the purchase by Murray Energy of five of West Virginia's six largest underground coal-mining operations.
Both West Virginia Democrats said Monday night that they hope Murray Energy focuses on mine safety, job security and employee benefit protections when it takes over five northern West Virginia mines from CONSOL Energy.
"I am very closely monitoring the sale of some of CONSOL's mines to Murray Energy because I want to make absolutely sure that West Virginia's coal miners are treated fairly and with the total respect they deserve," Rockefeller said. "Murray Energy must make it their priority to focus directly on the thousands of West Virginia workers and retirees impacted by this deal -- their workplace safety, their job security, and the health and pension benefits they've earned with tough and dangerous work over many years."
Manchin said that CONSOL has "always been an industry leader in mine safety as well as a community-minded company that has continued to reach out to our hardworking miners and their families.
"I have looked to CONSOL to set the gold standard in mining conditions, and I can only hope that Murray Energy will follow in CONSOL's footsteps to put our miners first," Manchin said.
In a $3.5 billion deal announced Monday, CONSOL is selling Ohio-based Murray Energy its McElroy, Shoemaker, Blacksville, Loveridge and Robinson Run mining complexes. The mines are located in Marion, Marshall and Monongalia counties and employ about 2,800 hourly workers who are represented by the United Mine Workers union. Most of Murray Energy's other mines are non-union operations.
As part of the deal, CONSOL said that Murray Energy would acquire $2.4 billion of CONSOL balance sheet liabilities, including $2.1 billion for post-retirement employee benefit plans.
Murray Energy has so far declined to comment beyond a press release confirming the deal with CONSOL.
In that release, Murray Energy CEO Robert E. Murray said, "No company has developed a better legacy with its employees, with its customers, with the financial markets, with the regulatory agencies, or with the public in general, over many decades than has CONSOL and Consolidation Coal. Murray Energy intends to preserve this well-earned legacy."