Coal baron Murray seeks U.S. benefits to treat his black lung disease – report

WASHINGTON, Oct 1 (Reuters) – U.S. coal baron Robert Murray, whose company Murray Energy filed for bankruptcy last year, has applied for federal benefits to treat his black lung disease after opposing more stringent coal dust regulations for years, according to report by West Virginia public radio.

Murray, an ally of President Donald Trump, filed a claim with the Department of Labor seeking to access federal benefits to treat his disease, which is caused by prolonged exposure to coal dust, Ohio Valley ReSource – a National Public Radio affiliate, reported on Thursday.

Reuters could not independently confirm the report.

The news outlet said Murray wrote in his filing for benefits from the fund that he is heavily dependent on an oxygen tank and is “near death”. Murray said he is entitled to benefits after working in underground mines for 63 years.

Murray’s company had over $150 million in black lung compensation obligations to its miners when it filed for bankruptcy in October, according to court filings.

When a mining company goes bankrupt, the responsibility for black lung compensation payments is often shifted to the federal government’s Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.

The Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration, which administers the benefits, did not respond to a request for comment.

Mike McCown, spokesman for American Consolidated Natural Resources, Murray Energy’s new name after emerging from bankruptcy, declined to comment.

The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund is funded through a $1.10 per ton excise-tax on production of underground coal but runs a massive debt and is at risk of insolvency, according to the U.S. General Accountability Office.

The National Mining Association continues to fight to slash the tax in half. (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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