In a landmark decision on Friday that could have far-reaching implications for federal coal leasing, a U.S. District Court judge ruled against the expansion of Arch Coal’s West Elk mine in Colorado for failure of federal regulators to consider the social cost of carbon in their environmental review.
The decision issued by Judge Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Colorado found that the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service overlooked the costs of carbon emissions from the mining and combustion operations associated with the mine’s expansion even though the agencies acknowledged that expanding West Elk’s operations would likely result in greater greenhouse gas emissions.
Friday’s ruling is the result of a challenge brought by environmental groups contesting three agency decisions on the Colorado Roadless Rule and expansion of the West Elk mine in the Sunset Roadless Area. This region is a part of the treasured North Fork Valley backcountry in western Colorado which abuts the iconic West Elk Wilderness and is a destination for hikers and hunters and habitat for the threatened lynx.
The agencies’ decisions would have permitted Arch Coal to expand the West Elk Mine into 1,700 acres of the Sunset Roadless Area, the bulldozing of six miles of road, and the construction almost 50 well pads for the venting of methane from the mine expansion. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and the second-most prevalent GHG emitted in the United States after carbon dioxide.
According to the decision, the BLM and Forest Service initially found that the social cost of carbon associated with the expansion could be as high as $984 million, but the agencies arbitrarily scrapped this analysis from the final environmental impact statement. However the associated benefits of the project were still included in the agencies’ analysis. The court called this error “more than a mere flyspeck.”
The ruling goes on to acknowledge that agencies are required to analyze the effects of their actions on climate change. The court noted that the BLM and Forest Service “acknowledged that there might be impacts from GHGs in the form of methane emitted from mining operations and from carbon dioxide resulting from combustion of coal produced,” and “this reasonably foreseeable effect must be analyzed.”
The decision was issued just in time before Arch Coal’s exploration activities were set to begin on July 1, and stops the expansion of the West Elk coal mine and any associated surface or below-ground activity, including bulldozing or construction, for now until the parties can agree on how to move forward.
Expanded coal leasing in the American West, particularly the coal-rich Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, has been a hotly contested issue in recent years, with parties raising significant concerns over the climate effects of burning the coal mined in the region.
This court’s decision reminds agencies to consider climate impacts when making decisions affecting federal lands.
All posts in category Coal
Posted by Jack A. Bass on July 9, 2014
If one brokerage firm on Wall Street can generate excitement with stocks to buy, it is Goldman Sachs. That is particularly so when the company makes changes to its Conviction Buy List. On Friday, two very unusual changes were made: a master limited partnership (MLP) and a coal company were added to the firm’s prized Conviction Buy List.
MarkWest Energy Partners L.P. (NYSE: MWE) was maintained as a Buy at Goldman Sachs, but the MLP was added to the Conviction Buy List and given a $78 price target. MarkWest closed at $70.64, has a 52-week range of $58.62 to $75.79 and has a consensus analyst target price of only $71.93. MarkWest is worth some $11.5 billion, and its distribution rate (“yield equivalent”) is listed as 5.1%.
SunCoke Energy Inc. (NYSE: SXC) is not a typical Conviction Buy List stock. The company operates as an independent producer of coke in the Americas, offering metallurgical and thermal coal for use as a raw material in the blast furnace steelmaking process. Goldman Sachs had a Buy rating but moved it up to the Conviction Buy List and assigned a $27 price target. After closing at $20.56, SunCoke has a 52-week range of $13.58 to $23.90, and the consensus price target is $25.33.
Metallurgical and thermal coal might not be as big a target in the current administration’s anti-coal push, but anything to do with coal has been a very hard sell to the investment community of late. As for risks in individual MLPs, MarkWest has diversified operations around the nation in several shale regions.
Posted by Jack A. Bass on June 29, 2014
Joy Global (JOY : NYSE : US$49.16), Net Change: -2.15, % Change: -4.19%, Volume: 7,519,489
Joy Global, a maker of mining equipment, reported a 36% slide in quarterly orders and warned of
sharply lower revenue for a further year as coal producers cut back capital spending in the face of a supply glut and low prices.
Net income fell 5% to $183.2 million, or $1.71 per share. Revenue dropped 5% to $1.32 billion.
Excluding items, Joy Global earned $1.70 per share while analysts expected earnings of $1.37 per share, excluding items, on revenue of $1.18 billion. Joy Global maintained its 2013 forecast for earnings of $5.60-5.80 per share.
The company, which derives two-thirds of its revenue from sales to coal miners, said it would increase cost cutting to offset the slide in orders. Management maintained its forecast of revenue for the year to October 2013 of $4.9-5.0 billion, down from last year’s $5.66 billion, and it warned the following year would be worse.
“The current outlook (for 2014) is unlikely to support annual revenue above $4 billion,” Chief Executive Mike
Sutherlin said in a statement. This is sharply lower than the previous average expectation from analysts for revenue of $4.57
billion for the year ending October 2014.
Posted by Jack A. Bass on August 29, 2013
(TCK.B : TSX : $33.28), Net Change: -1.17, % Change: -3.40%, Volume: 3,996,733
Teck Resources continued to slide on Friday. On Thursday, the diversified metals producer announced Q4/12 results that saw the company report $0.61 per share, well ahead of consensus estimates of $0.48.
The earnings beat versus estimates was due to lower coal cash costs of $103 per tonne, higher copper sales volumes of 105,000 tonnes and lower depreciation, partially offset by higher copper cash costs of US$1.79 per pound.
TCK.B also provided initial 2013 guidance which overall was soft. For 2013 copper production guidance ranged 330,000-370,000 tonnes, while coal production guidance ranged 24-25 million tonnes. Both of these were below Wowkodaw’s estimates of 374,000 tonnes and 25.5 million tonnes respectively. 2013 coal cash cost guidance of US$107- 117/tonne was in line with estimates of US$113/tonne. 2013 capital cost guidance was higher at $2.0 billion, due to spending on the QBII project being brought forward. For Q1/13, TCK.B has already reached agreements to sell 6.0 million tonnes of coal at an average price of US$159/tonne.
In project development, the company continues to make good progress on the mill modernization at its Highland Valley Copper mine, the acid plant project at Trail and the advancement of TCK.B’s new mine development projects. On TCK.B’s quarterly conference call, CEO Don Lindsay discussed acquisition opportunities (from Seeking Alpha transcript), “We talked about, in the past, that iron ore would be a good fit for our portfolio and it really would for all sorts of good reasons. I said in the last quarterly call that we’ve moved on because we just found the values too high. But values have come down and also, as probably those who follow the industry closely, there’s a few new assets that have become available.”
- Teck Resources changes tune on acquisition opportunities (business.financialpost.com)
Posted by Jack A. Bass on February 11, 2013
CP Rail announced that it would be taking a fourth-quarter, pre-tax non-cash charge of $180 million on its option to build a rail line into the Powder River Basin (PRB). When CP acquired the Dakota Minnesota & Eastern railroad in 2007, it also acquired the option to build a 260-mile extension of its network into coal mines in the PRB.
Components of the charge include the option, engineering design costs, land and capitalized interest. It is CP’s intention to defer indefinitely plans to extend its rail network into the PRB coal mines based on continued deterioration in the market for domestic thermal coal, including a sharp deterioration in 2012.
CP is hosting an investor event this week, in which it is expected that the company will provide details on its profit improvement program.
Management wants to improve CP’s operating ratio (OR) to 65% (EBIT margin of 35%) over the next 3-4 years from the current roughly 78% OR and the company record OR of 75.5% achieved in 2006 and 2007. Canaccord estimates that CP will generate an appealing 18% annual share price appreciation over the next 3 years if it achieves a 65% OR in 2016. This gain declines to a less exciting 12% at a 70% OR
- CP Rail to eliminate 4,500 positions by 2016 (ctvnews.ca)
Posted by Jack A. Bass on December 12, 2012
Canary in the coal sector ?
CONSOL Energy provided the market with an operational and financial update for Q3/12.
The company announced that it expects to report a net loss for the quarter, due to a combination of marketing and operational issues. “While precise figures are not yet available, it is clear that the company’s previously announced planned and unplanned mine idlings took their toll on third quarter earnings,” commented CFO William J. Lyons. “Fortunately, CONSOL Energy has the balance sheet to maintain market discipline. Even at the end of the quarter, our liquidity remained strong.
At September 30, 2012, we had cash of $231 million, no short term debt, and $2.3 billion of capacity under our credit facilities.” During the last several months, CONSOL announced a planned two-week idling of Blacksville Mine and a one-week idling of Robinson Run Mine, due to weak thermal coal markets. The Fola Mine was also idled. Subsequently, the company suffered the failure of two new conveyor belts at the Bailey Preparation Plant, which impacted production at the Enlow Fork and Bailey mines.
In early September, the company announced the idling of its premier low-vol Buchanan Mine for an estimated 30-60 days. CONSOL’s Coal Division produced 11.6 million tonnes during the quarter, including 0.8 million tonnes of low-vol metallurgical and midvol coal from the company’s Buchanan and Amonate Mines. CONSOL’s total coal inventory decreased during the quarter by 0.7 million tonnes to 1.7 million tonnes as of September 30, 2012. Thermal coal inventory decreased by 0.8 million tonnes during the quarter, as sales outpaced the scaled-back production .
- Just Loving Coal is Not Enough (247wallst.com)
Posted by Jack A. Bass on October 16, 2012
Alpha Natural Resources said it is planning to shut some cole mines while slashing 9% of its work force in the face of weak demand for coal. The moves are part of the company’s shift away from power-plant coal, where low demand and prices have made the fuel less and less profitable than steelmaking coal. The plan will see about 1,200 jobs cut and a 15% reduction in output from 2011 levels.
The U.S. market, where a 15% decline in coal demand is expected, is undergoing a structural shift, rather than a temporary one, the company said in a statement. It plans to increase its efforts to sell met coal as well as both steelmaking and power-plant coal overseas, where demand is stronger. All in, eight mines will be idled, resulting in 400 positions being eliminated. It will also consolidate its four operating regions in to two, which should save about $150 million
Posted by Jack A. Bass on September 19, 2012
Is there a turnaround coming – anytime – soon?
JAMES RIVER COAL (US:JRCC) $2.94
Of the various sectors of the resource market from gold, silver, lead, zinc, oil, gas, you-name it, the one sector that has truly been bashed is that of coal. Coal prices have fallen off a cliff in the last while and several coal companies have gone bankrupt, thousands of workers have been laid off as the dirty, smelly coal industry is finding itself replaced by natural gas.
With the collapse in natural gas prices last winter because of the unprecedented warm weather, many power plants in the United States switched from using coal to using natural gas and right now, there is just as much natural gas being used to provide power as the once very dominant coal industry that used to provide 50% of the all power.
There has been some benefits such as some of the cleanest air in the United States in many years…they would be
one of the few countries that has suggested to have made the Kyoto agreement, whereas the rest of the world would
have failed. Who would have thought?
The chart on James river coal tells the tale.
. Is that an ugly chart or what? Many of them though now seem to be putting in a bottom as the feeling grows that once things get this bad, surely they can’t get any worse. Plus we are getting ever closer to winter with the hope that if natural gas prices do rise as some suspect this winter, coal might regain some of its market, or so the hope goes.
Posted by Jack A. Bass on September 13, 2012
JOY : NYSE : US$54.67
Joy Global cut its outlook for 2012 for the second time this year as slowing growth in China and Europe and low natural gas prices in the United States continued to hamper coal demand and in turn demand for mining equipment maker’s products, such as giant shovels and draglines. A milder winter in the United States reduced demand for electricity, and low natural gas prices prompted power producers to move away from coal. Higher hydropower generation in China has also reduced coal demand.
Looking ahead, Joy Global now expects fiscal 2012 adjusted earnings between $7.05-7.20 per share, down from $7.15-7.45 per share, previously. It also cut its 2012 revenue forecast to $5.45-5.55 billion, from $5.5-5.7 billion. Joy Global’s CEO, Mike Sutherlin, stated, “Although the U.S. market has progressed in line with our expectations, the deceleration of China demand has deteriorated international markets more quickly and severely than previously expected.”
Shares of the company have been hard hit this year, trading down ~45% since touching a 52-week high in late January.
Posted by Jack A. Bass on August 30, 2012
Alpha Natural Resources (ANR : NYSE : US$6.90)
Market Vector Coal ETF (KOL : NYSE : US$23.43)
There is a lump of coal in every investor’s stocking – even billionaires.
Shares of Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal were in the red Monday after both were downgraded by a Bay Street brokerage. The brokerage says Alpha and Arch have the weakest balance sheets and lowest margins of Eastern Coal producers, potentially creating financing issues. With natural gas remaining cheap, over the next two to three years, higherpriced thermal coal contracts are expected to roll off and pricing will be marked to market to compete with natural gas pricing, or the contracts may not be renewed.
Either scenario would have negative impact on margins for both Alpha and Arch. Add to this expected closures in Appalachia, which the brokerage estimates makes up 94% of Alpha’s net present value and 62% of Arch’s valuation, and that Appalachian producers are among the highest-cost producers of met and thermal, the outlook for the companies’ margins looks increasingly bleak.
Billionaire Wilbur Ross said that the shale-gas boom may extend the slump in the coal company. Ross said, “Last time the cycle was this bad, the problems were essentially just cyclical. This time the major secular trends are far more likely to be unfavorable for years to come.” Low gas prices, environmental regulations and a mild winter have spurred mine closures as domestic demand reaches a 24-year low.
Posted by Jack A. Bass on July 17, 2012