254 lose jobs in Murray, PBS cutbacks

JUST when it appeared the string of bad news tied to the market downturn had eased a bit, two more Appalachian-based operators – PBS Coals and Murray Energy’s Ohio Valley Coal – have confirmed slices to payroll.
254 lose jobs in Murray, PBS cutbacks 254 lose jobs in Murray, PBS cutbacks 254 lose jobs in Murray, PBS cutbacks 254 lose jobs in Murray, PBS cutbacks 254 lose jobs in Murray, PBS cutbacks

Courtesy: PBS Coals

Donna Schmidt

Severstal Resources’ PBS Coals said it would immediately idle a portion of its deep and surface mines in Somerset County, Pennsylvania – the heart of its portfolio – furloughing 225 workers.

It will also adjust production schedules at the rest of its operations.

PBS cited market demand and increased costs parallel with more pressure from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

“The decision to idle our surface mine operations is a difficult one but in an effort to manage our inventory and to balance coal production with expected customer demand and shipping schedules, we are faced with making adjustments which unfortunately will impact our workforce,” president and chief executive officer D Lynn Shanks said.

“Both the foreign and domestic coal markets remain soft due to weak economic growth and activity.

“Additionally, the escalating costs and uncertainty generated by recently advanced EPA regulations and interpretations have created a challenging business climate for the entire coal industry.”

PBS government affairs manager Lori Mason told local news station WJAC that it waited as long as it could to take action and respond to the downturn.

“Because we're doing this we're going to be very well situated when the market rebounds," she said.

Mason said the layoffs were permanent for now and PBS would still have about 800 employees after the furlough.

She told the station she did not foresee any further sackings.

“We put a lot of work into considering all of the appropriate factors,” she said.

“These are our team members. It was very difficult to make this decision and we hope that we can bring them back or invite them back as soon as possible.”

Russia-based Severstal owns PBS Coals and the impacted affiliate, RoxCoal.

RoxCoal’s entire presence is in Somerset County, where it has 10 mines and two cleaning facilities.

Also making cuts was Murray Energy, confirming a “small layoff” at its Powhatan no. 6 mine in Belmont County, Ohio which will leave it down 29 hourly workers.

Executives went straight to the point regarding the impetus for what it called a forced decision.

“We are deeply disappointed and saddened that we had to take this action … but the excessive and unnecessary regulatory actions of the Obama administration have disrupted our mining operations and taken away much of the market for our coal,” general manager Ronald Koontz said.

“In turn, this will drive up electricity costs for everyone and increase the cost of goods for American citizens.”

He also confirmed that, unfortunately, the furlough at Powhatan no. 6 was “just the beginning” for the company.

“Since his election, Mr Obama and his appointees have waged a ‘war on coal’ seeking to destroy the coal industry and the jobs of our own employees and the livelihoods of their families,” Koontz said.

“The failed energy policies of the Obama administration and the ‘war on coal’ that the president and his Democrat supporters have unleashed are the direct cause of this layoff.”

Murray’s Ohio Valley affiliate will have 680 workers following the cut.

Murray Energy is eastern Ohio’s largest employer with 1548 direct jobs.

Nationwide, the producer employs 3398.

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