Murray Energy purchase from rival increases southern Illinois coal holdings by 100M tons

ST. LOUIS – A leading U.S. coal company is adding roughly 100 million more tons of reserves and other resources to its southern Illinois portfolio, broadening its operations months after decrying federal regulation of the industry.

Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp. said Tuesday its purchases in Hamilton and Saline counties from Pennsylvania-based rival Consol Energy Inc. are strategically adjacent to the New Era mine operated by a Murray subsidiary, bringing its coal reserves nationwide to roughly three billion tons.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Murray said the purchase positions the New Era Mine for more than 20 additional years of continued operation in economically stressed southern Illinois, a region rich in untapped fossil fuels.

Murray, a privately held company with a dozen mines in Illinois and five other states, is among the nation’s most vocal coal producers.

In March, Murray sued the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming in federal court that the agency has failed to comply with the Clean Air Act’s requirement to evaluate the potential impact of its regulatory actions on employment. Two months later, the company filed a federal lawsuit challenging new regulations to cut the amount of coal dust in coal mines.

Then in June, Murray pressed a federal lawsuit meant to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s new proposed carbon emissions for power plants, which seek to reduce global warming by forcing a 30 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. Murray called those proposed rules “illegal, irrational, and destructive,” and said they have the possibility to jeopardize millions of jobs.

Murray also sued fellow coal producer Williamson Energy LLC in July, accusing the rival of sharing confidential business plans during a deal that later fizzled. Murray argued that Williamson — a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Foresight Energy — used the proprietary details to buy up southern Illinois land to thwart Murray’s expansion plans.

Murray Energy employs more than 7,200 people in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Utah, according to the company’s website.