For Immediate Release
Brian Willis, 202.675.2386, Brian.Willis@sierraclub.org
With Coal Industry in Decline, Alpha and Contura Merge
WASHINGTON - Contura Energy Inc. and Alpha Natural Resources Inc. announced today that the two coal mining companies have reached a “definitive merger agreement” that will re-merge the companies in order to try and compete in America’s declining coal industry. Since 2010, half of the United States coal-fired power plants have retired, or announced their retirement, as electricity customers have demanded clean energy resources like solar, wind, and energy efficiency.
Contura, which was formed from the most profitable mining assets owned by Alpha Natural Resources after the company filed for bankruptcy in 2015, is seeking to sell its mining operations in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming after they failed to yield expected returns. During the bankruptcy, Alpha shed billions of dollars in debt and abandoned its obligations to its workers to restructure under two separate companies. The announced merger is widely considered to be a telling signal on the health of the thermal coal industry as clean energy resources gain market share across the United States. The new, merged company will primarily concentrate on metallurgical coal (used for making steel), as opposed to thermal coal (used in power plants).
Assets of the combined entities include a 65 percent interest in a coal export facility in Newport News, VA, Dominion Terminal. Coal dust from the terminal has caused problems for the Southeast Virginia community for decades. Dust, picked up by the wind, coats neighborhoods and exposes residents to detrimental health effects. Residents have complained that coal dust has led to increased asthma rates in the county and will likely seek relief from the merged company.
In response, Mary Anne Hitt, Senior Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, released the following statement:
“Today’s merger announcement between Contura Energy and Alpha Natural Resources is another clear sign that the coal industry will continue facing strong headwinds for the foreseeable future, particularly for thermal coal. America’s energy marketplace is shifting beneath their feet as electricity customers demand cheap, reliable electricity that doesn’t pollute our air and water. Customers have clearly seen through the coal industry’s efforts to rebrand itself and instead found their answer in solar, wind, and energy efficiency resources. Coal is on its way out, clean energy is on its way in, and mergers like these will become more common as the coal market gets smaller and smaller.”
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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.