Coal company Alpha Natural Resources is asking a judge to allow the Virginia-based business to break its contract with a union in order to reorganize its finances.
Alpha Natural Resources filed a petition Monday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, asking to be able to modify the company’s obligations for retiree health care benefits.
The company argues that it needs to cut costs in order to survive an ongoing decline in the coal industry. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August, citing increased competition from low-priced natural gas, an oversupply in the global coal market and increasing government regulations.
Company lawyers say that the company spent about $53 million on health care benefits for union employees last year. Attorneys also argue that the company spent about 34 percent more on each union employee than on each non-union employee.