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Patriot bankruptcy moved to St. Louis

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A bankruptcy case that may affect hundreds or thousands of West Virginia active and retired miners is being moved from a New York court to one in St. Louis.

The United Mine Workers of America and other groups have fought for a change of venue. When their campaign was announced, President Cecil Roberts said the UMWA felt they would not get a fair shake on post-retirement benefits during Patriot's Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. 

In an e-mailed announcement today, Roberts said the court made the right call in transferring venue.

"Nobody has ever mined one ounce of coal in Manhattan," Roberts said. "Patriot Coal executives set up two dummy corporations in New York because they wanted their case heard in a forum far from the coal fields."

Roberts said the proximity to not only the headquarters of Patriot Coal, but also its parent companies Arch and Peabody Energy would be beneficial. The UMWA has made clear it hopes to involve the parent companies in Patriot's bankruptcy.

"These two companies spun off their operations to Patriot in an attempt to run away from pension and health care obligations to thousands of miners and their survivors," Roberts said.

Though the UMWA is counting the ruling as a victory, it had sought to instead move the proceedings to Charleston.

"Though we would have preferred this case to be moved to Charleston, W. Va., moving it to St. Louis puts it on the front porch of Peabody Energy and Arch Coal," Roberts said. "We filed this case so that it would be moved away from a place where no coal has ever been mined to a place where people are familiar with the coal industry."

Patriot Coal made news last week when it announced it had opted to cease mountaintop removal operations as part of a deal involving litigation with multiple environmental groups.