Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Murray Energy linked to Ohio nuclear plant bribery scandal

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Murray Energy, the eastern Ohio coal-mining giant that has filed for bankruptcy protection, is being accused in a court filing of not being forthcoming about its role in a $61 million bribery and racketeering scandal roiling the Statehouse.

Fellow coal company Consol Energy, based in Pennsylvania, charged in the filing that Murray has not provided creditors “with adequate information regarding a recent criminal complaint and media reports of Murray Energy Corporation’s alleged involvement in a racketeering and bribery scheme.”

Murray, based in St. Clairsville, filed for bankruptcy protection last October in Columbus, seeking to restructure $2.7 billion in debt. It said then that it had more than $8 billion in actual or potential legacy liabilities including pensions.

The Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer reported last week that Murray provided $100,000 in “dark money” involved in the alleged racketeering and bribery scheme that has ensnared former House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates over House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law that was passed a year ago.

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Murray Energy lobbied for the legislation and its $1.3 billion ratepayer bailout of a pair of troubled nuclear power plants that Akron-based FirstEnergy passed on to a former subsidiary, Energy Harbor.

In 2013, Consol sold to Murray five West Virginia coal mines, transferring the health-care liabilities that went along with them and creating certain leasing arrangements that still exist and give Consol its stake in the bankruptcy proceedings, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

That deal built in protections for miners who retired from those mines, stipulating that should Murray default on its benefit obligations to them, Consol would be responsible for honoring them.

“Consol submits that information regarding the debtors’ good faith and alleged involvement in or adjacency to alleged criminal activity is highly relevant to creditors and must be disclosed,” Consol said in the filing.

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Murray Energy declined to comment on the filing.

Robert Murray, founder of the company bearing his name and its CEO until it filed for bankruptcy last fall, began his company in 1988 with a single mine in eastern Ohio’s Belmont County. He is a long-time supporter of Republican politicians and causes in Ohio and a major contributor to President Donald Trump. Murray was paid nearly $14.1 million in the year before his company’s bankruptcy, according to case filings.

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