A climate change denying mine owner who opposed stringent coal dust environmental laws has been killed by coal dust on his lungs. Robert Murray died aged 80 on Sunday, exactly a week after retiring from his bankrupt mining company and applying for government benefits to treat his black lung disease.
Murray – a staunch Donald Trump supporter who spent 16 years working underground – passed away at his home in St Clair, Ohio. A filing for benefits to help with his black lung disease, which is caused by inhaling coal dust, said that he was near death and heavily dependent on an oxygen tank last week.
Murray’s company Murray Energy declared bankruptcy last year, meaning the corporation’s $74.4million debts were transferred to the government’s Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. That spared Murray from having to pay to treat any of his former workers suffering from the same condition that killed him.
Murray Energy was once the largest private coal company in the world, with its former owner spending much of his career attacking environmental regulations he blamed for destroying the coal industry.
Murray even pushed back against rules aimed at limiting the very dust which ended up killing him.
The coal boss also hailed President Trump’s decision to ax environmental laws passed by his predecessor Barack Obama, which Murray branded a ‘war on coal.’
Murray successfully lobbied Trump to lift restrictions on dumping coal waste in waterways, and also successfully pushed for the scrapping of the Clean Power Plan act, which aimed to slash emissions from power plants.
But Trump’s decision to green-light many of the changes called for by Murray were not enough to save the businessman’s company from going bust.
His business was ultimately destroyed by cheap natural gas obtained from fracking, and by an increasing reliance on green energy, including solar and wind power.
The destruction of Murray’s company ended a career inspired by his dad – himself a miner who was paralyzed in a mining accident when Murray was nine.
Murray broke his neck twice in mining accidents during his 16 years working underground.
National Mining Association President Rich Nolan was among those who paid tribute to Murray.
He said: ‘There was no one more passionate about the importance and value of coal, and the absence of his voice will be felt by many.’
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