Regions Southwest Virginia

Former CEO pushes back against Alpha Natural Resources’ bid to cut retiree health benefits

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Print this page By Paula C. Squires



A group of former employees of Alpha Natural Resources, led by Michael J. Quillen, the company’s founder and former chairman and CEO, is pushing back against an attempt by the coal company to cut health and other nonpension benefits for more than 4,500 nonunion retirees.

The group filed an objection Wednesday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond to Alpha’s motion to terminate benefits on Dec. 31.

Alpha filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Aug. 3. It said in a motion filed with the court on Nov. 3 that the benefits are a financial burden that cost the Bristol-based company about $2.7 million in 2014 and represent about a $125 million liability on the company’s balance sheet.

Quillen formed Alpha in 2002. He headed the company during an IPO in 2005 and through a series of more than a dozen mergers and acquisitions, including the Massey Coal Co. in 2011. He stepped down as the company’s chairman in the spring of 2012 at a time when Alpha was one of the country's largest coal producers. Since then the company has shuttered some of its mines as the country moves to implement a federal clean power plan focused on cutting carbon emissions. 

“While I understand the challenges that Alpha Natural Resources has faced in recent years, to suddenly try to eliminate retiree health benefits of thousands of families goes against the values the company was built on,” Quillen said in a statement. “ We made a pledge to our employees to provide a safe place to work and benefits that would extend beyond their years of employment. It’s imperative for the company to honor that pledge. I sincerely want to see the company survive, strengthen and take care of existing employees while recognizing the contribution of those who helped grow the company and the companies acquired since 2002.”

The group also asked the court to appoint an employee committee to the bankruptcy proceedings.


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