Murray Energy seeks to lay off thousands in 6 states, including Kentucky

Published: Jul. 2, 2016 at 9:28 AM EDT
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Murray Energy is the largest privately owned coal miner in the U.S. and now they are warning that big cuts are ahead. WKYT talked to Bill Bissett, President of the Kentucky Coal Association and he says this is just the beginning.

"Kentucky is a coal mining state that produces steam coal electricity generated coal and if we're not creating electricity with it there is no where to go and that's why people lose their jobs," Bissett said.

A news release from the St. Clairsville, Ohio, company says it issued the notices for its operations in Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky, Utah and Pennsylvania.

The company has threatened to cut over 4,400 jobs, which is close to 80 percent of its workforce.

The release blamed the possible job losses on President Barack Obama's environmental policies regarding coal. The company also laid blame on increased use of low-price natural gas for electricity.

"For every one job loss we lose at least 3 indirect jobs for every coal miner that loses his job so it's a serious concern for Eastern Kentucky, but that concern has grown now," Bissett told WKYT. "Now, we see Western Kentucky, which is where Murray Energy operations are located they are now talking of layoffs, other countries have had layoffs."

The price of coal has declined over the years and Bissett says companies are laying off employees to catch up with the market. He says over the next few years less coal is going to get mined and that means more people will lose their jobs.

"We will be mining coal in Kentucky, but the truth of it is as those coal fire plants are retired and news ones are not being built we will only continue to contract and that's the reality of it, until things change either politically or they see our product in a different light," he said.

Murray and other coal operators are involved in contract negotiations with the United Mine Workers of America. Earlier this week the union's members rejected a proposed contract.

Murray said earlier this year that all his mines are running on reduced schedules because of the slumping market.

In a news release the company said if the layoffs happen it will be some time in September. The law requires a 60 day waiting period before a large layoff can occur.