In a September 17 filing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Foresight suggested any such legal action, instead of in Illinois, should have been brought in Ohio where the immediate defendant, Williamson Energy, is a “citizen.”
Foresight, in its formal response to the Murray suit filed in August, outlined a complex corporate chain of ownership. Foresight said Murray, based in St. Clairsville, Ohio, incorrectly alleged that Williamson, operator of the Pond Creek longwall mine in Williamson County, Illinois, is a citizen of Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and England.
In short, Foresight said, Williamson is directly owned by a partnership, Foresight Energy, that is directly owned, in part, by a limited partner, Foresight Reserves, that is directly owned, in part, by at least two limited partners, C/R Foresight Partners and Carlyle/Riverstone Global Energy and Power Fund III LP, that are directly owned, at least in part, by limited partners who are Ohio citizens.
As a result, Williamson “is indirectly owned by at least two Ohio citizens through a series of partnerships, with no intervening corporations or individuals in between,” Foresight said. “These facts alone mandate the dismissal of this action.”
A judge had not ruled on Foresight’s dismissal motion by the end of September.
Murray’s litigation centers around a six-year-old agreement between the two major Illinois high-sulfur thermal coal producers in which Foresight allegedly was made privy to confidential information about Murray’s plans at the time to sell off operations in several Illinois counties.
Murray is the largest privately owned coal company in the U.S. Foresight, founded by billionaire businessman Christopher Cline, went public in the U.S. earlier this year.
After gaining access to the secret information, Murray contends, Williamson and its affiliates began buying mineral and property rights directly in the path of Murray’s longwall mining plan at two underground thermal coal mines near Galatia in Saline County. Those mines, New Era and New Future, produced almost 10 million tons of coal in 2013.
According to Murray, Williamson’s alleged confidentiality breach forced Murray to “purchase or lease the mining rights to numerous other plots far earlier than it otherwise would have,” and to pay more for the rights than it had intended.
Moreover, Williamson is “continuing its efforts to acquire additional mining rights,” according to the Murray complaint.
In just a few years, Foresight has become the largest coal producer in Illinois. The company produced 18.8 million tons of coal in 2013 and its projected output for 2014 is around 24 million tons. In addition to Williamson Energy and Pond Creek, Foresight also owns Sugar Camp Energy, operator of the M-Class No. 1 and new Viking longwall mines in Franklin County; Hillsboro Energy, operator of the Deer Run longwall mine in Montgomery County; and Macoupin Energy, operator of a continuous miner operation in Macoupin County.
Murray also operates mines in other states and is expected to produce in excess of 65 million tons of coal in 2014.