CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Coal executive Bob Murray brought his criticism of President Obama to West Virginia on Tuesday, telling a state-sponsored energy conference that the mining industry is "being destroyed" by Obama and "his radical followers and supporters."
Murray, founder and president of Murray Energy, said hundreds of coal-fired power plants are closing around the country. He acknowledged that there is tough competition for coal from cheap natural gas, but he blamed the president, saying Obama is simply living up to a campaign promise to bankrupt the coal industry.
"Their efforts are accelerating," Murray told a crowd at the Charleston Marriott Town Center. "They are not decreasing."
Murray delivered the kickoff speech Tuesday morning at Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's Energy Summit, an annual event that features mostly presentations from various energy company and trade association officials.
Earlier this month, Murray's company became a major player in West Virginia's coal industry when it bought five large underground mines in the northern part of the state from Pittsburgh-based CONSOL Energy. The 11-minute speech Tuesday was Murray's first major public appearance in West Virginia since the CONSOL deal closed on Dec. 5.
The $3.5 billion deal dramatically increased Murray's annual coal production, its coal reserves and its employees in what the Ohio-based company has called a "truly transformational event." Nationwide, Murray and its subsidiaries now employ about 7,100 workers.
The mines involved -- CONSOL's McElroy, Shoemaker, Blacksville, Loveridge and Robinson Run operations -- are five of the top six underground mines in West Virginia, with nearly 30 million tons of combined production in 2012, according to data filed with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Murray explained Tuesday that his firm will manage the former CONSOL operations through a company called Murray American Energy Inc. Individual mines, he noted, have been renamed after the counties in which they are located. The former McElroy Mine, for example, is now the Marshall County Coal Co.'s Marshall County Mine.
Murray also noted that all of his privately held company's coal comes from underground mines and that Murray Energy has no holdings in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, which he likened to "a giant sandbox with a 100-foot coal seam."