CA-Black-Transp

Supreme Court Decision Draws National Attention to West Virginia Politics

During early June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Chief  Justice Brent Benjamin, West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, who accepted a $3 million campaign contribution from Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, should have removed himself from a lawsuit involving Massey. In its ruling, the court was careful not to accuse Benjamin of bias or Blankenship of wrongdoing, but it did cast the spotlight on politics in coal country.

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The Alpha Deal Could Unleash More M&A Activity in the East

The big story this month is the news that Alpha Natural Resources intends to purchase Foundation Coal. The coal business in the eastern U.S. can best be described as a fragmented group of small- and medium-sized coal operators. With a total production of 23.5 million tons from 34 underground mines and 27 surface mines, Alpha was symbolic of the Central Appalachian (CAPP) market. The company is primarily a metallurgical coal operator. The two strikes here are met coal in a down steel market and the permitting problems now associated with eastern U.S. surface mining. Many of the analysts covering the coal market say the merger would help mitigate the effect of “CAPP surface mining exposure,” which is more than 40% of Alpha’s current production mix.

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Before Obama’s Team Can Move Forward, They Will Need to Undo the Bush Legacy

As the Obama administration gets its sea legs under it, many in the coal industry can’t help but wonder what impact it will have on them. This month for the first time, the new administration started to actively engage the coal mining business. The new leadership at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voiced its opinion on mountaintop mining (See News, p. 8 and Dateline Washington, p.16). Also this month, Coal Age exposes some of the nasty internal politics that took place at the Department of Energy (DoE) over the FutureGen project (See FutureGen, p. 46). Meanwhile, everyone is waiting to see who President Obama will appoint to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

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Who Will Pay for Cap-and-Trade?

The Obama administration during February offered a glimpse of what the country can expect with its 2010 budget blueprint titled, “A New Era of Responsibility—Renewing America’s Promise.” The 142-page document can be found at: www.whitehouse.gov. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) section would probably concern the coal industry the most. In it, the president gives many of the details for a cap-and-trade climate change program. The complete FY 2010 budget request is scheduled to be submitted to Congress in April.

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Mining Media’s Conferences Educate and Offer an Edge

Many coal executives today stress over the stock price as much as coal prices and production figures. The cyclic nature of mining is probably one of the more nerve wracking aspects of the business. The speed that executives and investors receive information now hastens the cycle, but also decreases the size of swing. That’s why we are seeing coal mining companies posting record revenues and then talking about austere measures in their market outlook.

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