UPDATE 1-Murray Energy files for bankruptcy as decline of U.S. coal continues

Valerie Volcovici

(Adds details, background)

Oct 29 (Reuters) - Murray Energy Corp, one of the largest privately held U.S. coal miners, whose founder is an ally of President Donald Trump, became the latest in a string of coal companies to file for bankruptcy on Tuesday as generators shift to cleaner burning natural gas and renewable energy.

As part of a restructuring, founder Robert Murray, an outspoken supporter of Trump and climate change denier, will step down as chief executive and a lender group will take on more than 60% of about $1.7 billion in claims.

"Although a bankruptcy filing is not an easy decision, it became necessary to access liquidity and best position Murray Energy and its affiliates for the future of our employees and customers and our long term success, Robert Murray said in a statement.

The bankruptcy comes even after the Trump administration weakened or eliminated dozens of environmental regulations that Murray and other executives had called burdensome for the coal industry.

Eight other coal companies have filed for bankruptcy over the last two years.

In addition to rolling back regulations on coal plants, the administration attempted to use emergency orders to bolster coal.

For example, Energy Secretary Rick Perry tried to slow the retirement of coal and nuclear plants https://www.reuters.com/article/us-firstenergy-nuclear-coal/firstenergy-seeks-em e r g e n c y - l i f e l i n e - f o r - u s - n u c l e a r - c o a l - p l a n t s - i d U S K B N 1 H 5 2 E T through a directive in 2017 to subsidize the aging units because they make the electric grid more resilient, a policy advocated by Murray.

Murray was a donor to Trumps presidential campaign in 2016 and a frequent attendee at events held by the administration, such as the announcement at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters of its plans to kill the Obama-era Clean Power Plan carbon regulations.

Early in the Trump presidency, Murray presented the administration with a wish list of environmental regulations he wanted slashed.

The company intends to continue operating during the Chapter 11 reorganization with cash on hand and access to $350 million from the lenders.

Robert Moore will take over as president and CEO of the company while Murray will head up the board of directors. Source text for Eikon: Further company coverage: (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)