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Is Murray Energy The Nation's Largest Coal Company?

Robert Murray, center, chief executive of Murray Energy Corp., talks to two miners in charge of drilling bore holes into the Crandall Canyon Mine before a news conference.
AP file photo
Robert Murray, center, chief executive of Murray Energy Corp., talks to two miners in charge of drilling bore holes into the Crandall Canyon Mine before a news conference..

Murray Energy Corp., a major player in the coal-mining industry, declared bankruptcy in late October, sending shockwaves across coal-dependent regions of West Virginia and neighboring states.

In addition to putting coal employment at risk, the company is the last major employer contributing to the United Mine Workers of America’s pension plan.

With such a big development, it was no surprise that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., quickly weighed in on Twitter.

“Murray Energy, the largest coal company in the United States, filed for bankruptcy,” Manchin tweeted on Oct. 29, 2019. “If Murray rejects the UMWA pension plan obligations in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the UMWA pension fund will be insolvent by 2020. Before last night it was projected to be insolvent by 2022.”

However, we noticed a problem with how Manchin described Murray Energy. Is it really the largest coal company in the United States?

Manchin’s office pointed us to a New York Times article published about the bankruptcy the same day as his tweet.

The article includes this sentence: “Murray, the nation’s largest privately held coal company, has nearly 7,000 employees and operates 17 mines in six states across Appalachia and the South as well as two mines in Colombia.”

Manchin’s office also cited a CNN article from the same day that used similar language. “The slow death of the American coal industry has forced Murray Energy, the largest private coal miner in the United States, to file for bankruptcy protection Tuesday,” CNN’s article said.

Manchin’s tweet glossed over a phrase repeated in both articles – “privately held.”

So, where does Murray rank among all coal companies?

Murray Energy pointed us to data from the Energy Information Administration, a division of the federal Department of Energy. Here’s a table drawn from the agency’s statistics.

This shows that Murray Energy ranks fourth, behind Peabody Energy Corp., Arch Coal Inc., and Cloud Peak Energy. We confirmed that each of the three companies ahead of Murray are publicly held, making Murray the largest private coal company but not the largest coal company overall.

Our Ruling

Manchin tweeted that Murray Energy is "the largest coal company in the United States."

He flubbed the description -- Murray Energy is the largest privately held coal company, but not the largest coal company overall. If you include both private and public coal companies. Murray ranks fourth in the country. That makes it one of the largest, but not the largest.

We rate the statement Mostly False.

This article was orignially published by PolitiFact.


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