Bob Murray, Who Fought Against Black Lung Regulations As A Coal Operator, Has Filed For Black Lung Benefits

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tags: environmental history, labor history, Coal, workplace safety, occupational safety

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.

“I founded the company and created 8,000 jobs there until the move to end coal use. I am still chairman of the board,” he wrote on a Labor Department form that initiated his claim obtained by the Ohio Valley ReSource. “We’re in bankruptcy, and due to my health could not handle the president and CEO job any longer.”

According to sources, Murray’s claim is still in the initial stages and is being evaluated to determine the party potentially responsible for paying out the associated benefits. The Labor Department is required to determine a liable party before an initial ruling can be made on entitlement to benefits. If Murray’s claim were to go before an administrative law judge, some aspects of the claim would become a matter of public record.

The Ohio Valley ReSource confirmed the authenticity of Murray’s claim documents by inputting associated information — including his last name, birthdate and a case ID number — into an online portal maintained by the Labor Department.


History Of Fighting Safety Rules

Like other coal operators, Murray’s companies have disputed the claims made by miners who seek black lung benefits. The coal magnate, who for decades ran the largest privately owned underground coal mining company in the United States, has also been at the forefront of combatting federal regulations that attempt to reduce black lung, an incurable and ultimately fatal lung disease caused by exposure to coal and rock dust.

In 2014, Murray Energy spearheaded a lawsuit against the Obama administration over a federal rule that strengthened control of coal dust in mines.

The Obama-era standard reduced the acceptable amount of coal dust exposure for miners, increased the frequency of dust sampling, and required coal operators to take immediate action when dust levels are high.

The reforms were the first in more than four decades to tighten exposure standards to coal dust and came at a time that evidence was mounting that Appalachia was seeing a deadly resurgence in the most severe form of black lung, after reaching historic lows in the 1990s.


Read entire article at West Virginia Public Broadcasting

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