Robert Murray, the board chairman of the largest privately owned U.S. coal operator, who long fought federal regulations to reduce black lung disease, died at his home in Ohio less than a week after announcing his retirement, a lawyer said.
Michael Shaheen, an attorney who had recently represented Murray, 80, told The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register that the retired executive died Sunday morning in St. Clairsville.
No official cause of death was given. Public reports recently stated Murray had applied for black lung benefits with the U.S. Department of Labor. The application said Murray was heavily dependent on oxygen.
In the black lung claim, Murray said he was heavily dependent on oxygen and “near death.”
Murray had announced his retirement Oct. 19 from American Consolidated Natural Resource Holdings Inc., which is based in St. Clairsville. The company has active mines in Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Utah. Murray was the founder, president and CEO of the company’s predecessor, Murray Energy.
“Energy, dive, guts and faith”
“Throughout my life in and about coal mines and in our industry, I have given all that I had to our employees and their families to sustain their family livelihoods and jobs for the hard working people in our mining communities,” Murray had said in a statement at the time.
Murray Energy was launched in 1988. The company recently emerged from federal bankruptcy protection, with its Chapter 11 plan becoming effective last month.
“Bob fought through his medical challenges with the same energy, drive, guts, and faith in God as he approached everything in life,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, said in a statement. Murray was a friend for three decades, DeWine said.
In the early days of the Trump administration, the head of one of America’s largest coal companies sent a four-page “action plan” to the White House calling for rollbacks of Obama-era environmental and mine safety regulations.
A review of the memo by the Associated Press showed that Murray, an early campaign supporter of President Donald Trump and major GOP political donor, had gotten about half the items on his wish list. They included pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accords and revoking the Clean Power Plan, President Barack Obama’s signature effort to limit planet-warming emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Shaheen said a private memorial service for Murray was scheduled for Tuesday.
“Saddened to learn of the passing of Bob Murray,” tweeted U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican. “He was a staunch ally for coal miners, a good friend, and a one of a kind person.”