Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, who spoke to Republicans at the Lincoln Day Dinner on Wednesday, is "righteously mad" at President Barack Obama, who Murray says is to blame for the downturn in the coal industry.
The President, you see, is on a "bizarre personal and political" quest to destroy not only the coal industry, but the entire country and according to Murray, "radical environmentalists, liberal elitists, [and] Hollywood characters" aren’t doing anything to help the situation.
And make no mistake, this isn’t about money for Murray, this is all about the people. "Mr. Obama's actions are a human issue to me, as I know the names of many of the Americans whose jobs and family livelihoods are being destroyed," Murray said, adding that "these Americans are my employees."
Or at least they were his employees. Murray laid off 21% of his company back in May, with the majority of the cuts coming in West Virginia, which is staring down a $195 million budget gap thanks to the slide in coal prices.
Murray believes these job cuts are the fault of the Obama administration and, thankfully, he’s got some concrete arguments to support his contention that the President is colluding with Hollywood characters and certain "contributors" in an effort to "get control of the availability, reliability and cost of electricity."
[Murray] said President Barack Obama's administration has issued regulations that illegally bypass the states and their utility commissions, the U.S. Congress and the Constitution in favor of putting the U.S. EPA in charge of the nation's electric grid. Murray, speaking at a Republican gathering at the July 22 Lincoln Day Dinner, touted his company's four lawsuits being brought against the administration's Clean Power Plan, an effort to rein in carbon dioxide emissions.
Murray continued, saying that the coal workers affected by Obama's policies are among the highest paid in the regions where they live, but also have no one to sell their homes to when they lose their jobs.
"Thus, these people are prohibited from working and fall to the negative side of the economic ledger for the rest of their lives," Murray said. "This is not the America that I have always cherished. Well, I am obviously not giving up. Nor should you. We have the law, science, economics, cold hard energy facts and the Constitution on our side. Our cause is right. It is right for the coal industry and our communities and America. … We must continue to do whatever we can to overcome the insanity of our current government."
Murray goes on to say that the scope of EPA guidelines on coal boarders on the absurd. In support of this contention, he cites the fact that the agency's regulations are 38 times longer than the universally accepted standard for modern enviornmental law - the Bible: "EPA regulations alone total 25 million words, 38 times more than those in the holy Bible."
So who, you might ask, can fix the problem?
Well, Abraham Lincoln for one, but because that seems unlikely, Murray says West Virginia Republicans will have to do. Here's SNL again:
The CEO's plan to fix the problems he says fall on the shoulders of the Obama administration is to elect more Republicans. Calling Abraham Lincoln, the namesake of the event where he was speaking, the best president in U.S. history, Murray said Obama was 'by far, the worst.' In 2014, West Virginia's House and Senate both flipped to a Republican majority after decades of Democrats holding control of both chambers. Murray said the Democrat-led state Legislature provided 'huge opposition,' and he specifically called out some Democrats, including former Senate President Jeff Kessler, former House Speaker Timothy Miley and State Sen. Michael Romano, who was elected to represent Harrison County in 2014."
Murray said with Democrats out of the way in West Virginia, the Legislature was able to proceed with needed coal mining, tort law and other legislation. However, he said there is unfinished business in the form of changes to lower the coal industry's tax burden in the state.
"Currently, the coal industry accounts for 7% of the gross business product of the state, but our industry pays 60% of the business taxes in West Virginia," Murray said. "Oil and gas producers are not taxed to this extent. Relief must be given to the coal industry as our coal cannot compete with that from other states, all of which have lower coal severance taxes, or none at all."
Finally, Murray says that "most coal companies are cash-flow negative and many are approaching financial default. The result is that we will see the greatest restructuring of the coal industry in its history." In this regard, things haven't been all bad for Murray who, while laying of 1,400 employees has simultaneously spent at least $4.6 billion (enough to pay the annual salaries of 54,120 West Virginia coal miners, according to data from the National Mining Association) in the past two years acquiring competitors.
In any event, not everyone thinks the blame lies solely with Obama. Bo Webb (who is admittedly biased given that he's a campaign director for the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Campaign) suggests that Murray should blame cheap and abundant natural gas and by extension, free market forces: "Murray is not dealing with reality. It's not the Obama administration or Democrats. It's capitalism. It's the free market. It's that simple."