Former CEO Quillen objects to Alpha rush to cut certain retiree benefits

Former Alpha Natural Resources CEO Michael J. Quillen was among several former top Alpha executives that filed a Nov. 11 protest with Alpha’s bankruptcy court over how the coal producer wants to cut retiree benefits.

The objection was from Quillen, Kenneth M. Perdue, Eddie W. Neely, George A. Owens Jr., Leo Douglas Harris, Kurt D. Kost, John T. Schoolcraft and Foster Ram Tankersley (collectively called the “Interested Retired Employees”). Alpha, which filed for Chapter 11 protection on Aug. 3 at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, on Nov. 3 said it wants to terminate certain unvested non-pension benefits. That termination would be effective as of Dec. 31.

The targted benefits Alpha wants to get rid of are “unvested, non-pension welfare benefits” (e.g., hospital, medical, prescription, surgical and life insurance) currently offered to certain non-union retirees. The former executives said the response deadline for the termination motion is just 10 days from the date of the Nov. 3 filing, with the proposed hearing scheduled for a mere 14 days from the date of the filing.

They said: “The Interested Retired Employees only received notice of the Retiree Benefits Termination Motion and were able to retain counsel within the last few days, providing them with less than a week to analyze and respond to the Retiree Benefits Termination Motion, which threatens to terminate significant benefits upon which they and their families rely. The Interested Retired Employees hereby object to the Debtors’ Retiree Benefits Termination Motion and request additional time to fully and adequately respond to this Motion, as well as an opportunity to be heard.

“As such, the Interested Retired Employees request that the Court continue the November 17, 2015 hearing on the Debtors’ Retiree Benefits Termination Motion and set forth a briefing schedule so that the parties can effectively address the issues presented therein. Furthermore, on November 10, 2015, the Law Firm of Tavenner & Beran, on behalf of former employees and current retirees, filed a Motion to Appoint Official Retiree Committee Pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 1114 (ECF No. 868). The Interested Retired Employees join in that Motion and request that the United States Trustee for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division, appoint an Official Retiree Committee.”

Alpha is one of the largest U.S. coal producers, with mines in states like Wyoming, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It has indicated it wants to reorganize around its core mines, with a plan to sell off in the near term several mines that are shut or in the process being shut.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.