There has been more negative news from the coal industry.
At the end of the year, it was reported last week, Murray Energy Corp. will stop offering benefits to retirees of CONSOL Energy Inc.
It involves mines from a transaction that began last October.
Murray Energy, which is based in St. Clairsville, Ohio, then announced plans to buy Consolidation Coal Co.’s stock from CONSOL Energy. The transaction involved West Virginia’s McElroy, Shoemaker, Blacksville, Loveridge and Robinson Run facilities, as well as one closed operation in Pennsylvania.
A certified letter dated April 8, 2014, states that Murray Energy previously informed retirees that as of March 31, 2014, they would no longer be eligible for CONSOL Energy’s Salaried Retiree Medical Plan. In addition to retiree medical, the benefits consisted of Health Reimbursement Accounts and salary life insurance. Murray Energy notified the affected individuals that it would take over the benefit coverage starting April 2 of this year and mail out new identification cards.
Last month’s letter says, “Please be advised that Murray Energy does not provide salary retiree benefit coverage for its retirees. When Murray Energy purchased Consolidation Coal Co., it agreed to provide salary retiree benefits at a level substantially similar to that provided by CONSOL for those retirees already receiving such retiree benefits, but only for a period of at least one year from the closing date of Dec. 5, 2013.”
This December, that period of one year will come to an end.
The document continues, “CONSOL and Murray Energy reserved the right to amend or terminate your retiree benefits and coverage in applicable plan documents and summary plan descriptions.”
There were hopes last year that the benefits would not be lost.
United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts said at the time, “I want to emphasize to the retirees from these mines that the contract that protects their pensions and health care remains in force and there will be no changes to their benefits as a result of this transaction.”
Kate O’Donovan, manager of corporate communications for CONSOL, said that “as part of the transaction … we insisted that Murray Energy continue to provide retiree health insurance to our former salaried employees for at least one year.
“Consol Energy’s hope and expectation was that Murray Energy would honor these obligations beyond the one-year period. … While we respect the fact that Murray Energy is a different company with different priorities, this is an unfortunate and disappointing decision.”
Last month’s letter also tells recipients about RightOpt, an independent advisory service and private exchange that can assist retirees in making choices about future health insurance coverage.
Murray Energy, in an April 16 statement, said termination of former salaried employees’ medical coverage is consistent with the company’s “historical practice.”
The statement reads: “Murray Energy’s inability to provide these benefits is, in part, due to the destruction of the coal industry, including our markets, by the Obama Administration and its appointees and supporters, who have eliminated the livelihoods of thousands of coal miners, and their families, by the forced closing of 392 coal-fired electric power plants in America, now and in the immediate future.
“Due to these action and devastated coal markets, Murray Energy is unable to support these benefits. Murray Energy is making this announcement at this time to allow affected salaried retirees of Consolidation Coal the opportunity to make other arrangements. Over 80 percent of the lost benefits can be made up with Medicare. Also, these former Consolidation Coal retirees have good pension benefits. The company has provided these salaried retirees with information on and access to alternate coverage.”
These retirees devoted years of their time and efforts and contributed to the financial health of their company in exchange for benefits they’ve now lost.
We can only hope that conditions for the coal industry can soon rebound. Coal needs to be a viable part of the national and international energy picture for decades to come. If policies and innovation can make that happen, companies will have no excuse to make decisions that bring so much pain to people who devoted their lives to the industry.
There has been more negative news from the coal industry.
Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives
It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.
Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely
The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.
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Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life
Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.
COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?
Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.
Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions
This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Soup Opera in need of your support again this time of year
It’s happening again.
It usually always happens about this time each year. Sometimes it’s a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
But Soup Opera executive director Shelia Tennant knows it will come — usually in July. And she’s never that surprised about it.
County honors men who gave all in helping their community
The next time you’re driving in the Rivesville area, you might notice new signs on two of the area’s bridges.
Those signs, which bear the names of Alex Angelino and Denzil O. Lockard, were unveiled Saturday in honor of the men whose names they display, two men who died while serving their communities.
The bridge on U.S. 19 over Paw Paw Creek was named to honor Lockard, while the bridge on U.S. 19 over Pharaoh Run Creek was named to honor Angelino. Lockard, a former Rivesville police chief, died in 1958 at the age of 48 while directing traffic. Angelino, a Rivesville firefighter, died at the age of 43 of a heart attack while fighting a fire in 1966.
State must learn to keep costs down and perform more efficiently on less
The West Virginia state government began its budget year last Tuesday with a small surplus of $40 million — less than 1 percent of its annual tax revenues — thanks only to dipping into its savings.
Let’s not do that again.
Long-range vision with transportation has been made to be thing of proud past
Last week’s closure of Fairmont’s Fourth Street Bridge is a symbol of a problem that must be fixed.
The United States should be proud of the vision its leaders once displayed to address the country’s transportation needs.
Back in 1954, for example, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced his goal of an interstate highway system — something that transformed the country.
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