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ST. LOUIS (AP) - A bankrupt St. Louis-based coal company's push to significantly cut thousands of retirees' health care and pension benefits is in the hands of a judge.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States has until May 29 to decide the matter that last week was argued before her by attorneys for Patriot Coal Corp. and the United Mine Workers of America union. It's not clear how soon any ruling may come.

Patriot's proposed benefits cuts have been the most contentious aspect of its bankruptcy case since the Peabody Energy Corp. spinoff filed for Chapter 11 protection last summer. The company says it would have to spend $1.6 billion to cover retirees' health care costs, and that if that didn't change it might risk liquidation.

The union considers the cuts immoral, drastic and unfair.

 

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