Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.
Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.
I would like to contribute
Murray Energy Corp., a major player in the coal-mining industry, declared bankruptcy in late October, sending shockwaves across coal-dependent regions of West Virginia and neighboring states.
In addition to putting coal employment at risk, the company is the last major employer contributing to the United Mine Workers of America’s pension plan.
With such a big development, it was no surprise that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., quickly weighed in on Twitter.
"Murray Energy, the largest coal company in the United States, filed for bankruptcy," Manchin tweeted on Oct. 29, 2019. "If Murray rejects the UMWA pension plan obligations in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the UMWA pension fund will be insolvent by 2020. Before last night it was projected to be insolvent by 2022."
However, we noticed a problem with how Manchin described Murray Energy. Is it really the largest coal company in the United States?
Manchin’s office pointed us to a New York Times article published about the bankruptcy the same day as his tweet.
The article includes this sentence: "Murray, the nation’s largest privately held coal company, has nearly 7,000 employees and operates 17 mines in six states across Appalachia and the South as well as two mines in Colombia."
Manchin’s office also cited a CNN article from the same day that used similar language. "The slow death of the American coal industry has forced Murray Energy, the largest private coal miner in the United States, to file for bankruptcy protection Tuesday," CNN’s article said.
Manchin’s tweet glossed over a phrase repeated in both articles -- "privately held."
So where does Murray rank among all coal companies?
Murray Energy pointed us to data from the Energy Information Administration, a division of the federal Department of Energy. Here’s a table drawn from the agency’s statistics.
This shows that Murray Energy ranks fourth, behind Peabody Energy Corp., Arch Coal Inc., and Cloud Peak Energy. We confirmed that each of the three companies ahead of Murray are publicly held, making Murray the largest private coal company but not the largest coal company overall.
Manchin tweeted that Murray Energy is "the largest coal company in the United States."
He flubbed the description -- Murray Energy is the largest privately held coal company, but not the largest coal company overall. If you include both private and public coal companies. Murray ranks fourth in the country. That makes it one of the largest, but not the largest.
We rate the statement Mostly False.
Joe Manchin, tweet, Oct. 29, 2019
Ohio Valley ReSource, "Ohio-Based Coal Giant Murray Energy Declares Bankruptcy," Oct. 29, 2019
West Virginia Public Broadcasting, "Murray Energy’s Bankruptcy Could Bring Collapse Of Coal Miners’ Pensions," Nov. 4, 2019
Energy Information Administration, "Table 10. Major U.S. Coal Producers, 2018," accessed Nov. 7, 2019
New York Times, "Murray Energy Is 8th Coal Company in a Year to Seek Bankruptcy," Oct. 29, 2019
CNN, "America's largest private coal miner files for bankruptcy," Oct. 29, 2019
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.