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.

Murray Energy’s bankruptcy has been telegraphed for years. It recently failed to make payments to lenders, and the company entered into a forbearance agreement that bought it time to negotiate a restructuring. But that grace period came and went, and Murray Energy was unable to pay its bills. S&P Global Ratings downgraded the company’s credit rating to “default” earlier this month.
Coal just can’t compete with cheap natural gas and the plunging cost of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy. Power companies are ditching coal in favor of cleaner alternatives at a rapid pace. US power plants are expected to consume less coal next year than at any point since President Jimmy Carter was in the White House
The coal company formed a restructuring agreement with some of its lenders, representing about 60% of Murray’s $1.7 billion in liabilities. The company announced Tuesday it has received $350 million in credit to keep its business operational through bankruptcy.
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