Ohio coal magnate Robert Murray garnered national press in November when he laid off 156 workers in response to President Obama’s reelection. At time, he suggested that another four years of Obama presented an existential threat to his business.
“Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corp. for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build,” he said, while leading some of his staff in prayer.
Now Murray might be rehiring some of his ex-employees. “They’ve called back some hourly folks. They’re definitely starting it back up,” a former Murray employee at Ohio’s Red Bird West mine told The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis. According to McGillis, another employee “said he had talked to several locals who were taking steps to get hired back on.” A senior attorney for Murray Energy Corp. disputed the workers’ story, saying that the Red Bird West mine is still in the process of being closed down. However, he declined to comment on similar rumors coming out of the company’s Illinois and Utah operations.
Though Murray and other coal bosses have blamed the Obama-era EPA for the U.S. coal industry’s dimming prospects, others—such as the AP’s Vicki Smith—have pointed to other factors, such as “cheap natural gas, harder-to-mine coal seams, slowing economies.” Even without new regulations, Smith suggests, “coal’s peak has passed.” Even though coal demand continues to increase in developing economies such as China and India, analysts like Chris Swann believe that the domestic coal industry is unlikely to see much benefit from the international boom.