EAST CARBON, Carbon County — A Utah coal company owned by a vocal critic of President Barack Obama has laid off 102 miners.
The layoffs at the West Ridge Mine are effective immediately, according to UtahAmerican Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp. They were announced in a short statement made public Thursday, two days after Obama won re-election.
The layoffs are necessary because of the president’s “war on coal,” the statement said. The slogan is one used frequently during the election by Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, who was an ardent supporter of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
In its statement, UtahAmerican Energy blames the Obama administration for instituting policies that will close down “204 American coal-fired power plants by 2014” and for drastically reducing the market for coal.
“There is nowhere to sell our coal, and when we can, the market prices are far lower,” the statement said. “Without markets, there can be no coal mines and no coal jobs.”
Coal demand from U.S. power generation companies is down 17 percent this year, according to the federal Energy Information Administration’s most recent figures. That’s due in large part to low market prices for natural gas, and has the EIA forecasting the lowest coal consumption in at least two decades by the nation’s electricity industry.
Trends in power generation have also put coal-fired plants at a higher risk for retirement. In its annual Energy Outlook, the EIA reports that 49 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity will be retired in the next eight years. That represents about one-sixth of the existing coal capacity in the nation and less than 5 percent of total electricity generation in the U.S.
“Lower natural gas prices, higher coal prices, slower economic growth, and the implementation of environmental rules all play a role in the retirements,” the EIA report states.