Cooper McKim

Natural Resources & Energy Reporter

Phone: 307-766-0809
Email: cmckim5@uwyo.edu

Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and now Wyoming. In South Carolina, he covered recovery efforts from a devastating flood in 2015. Throughout his time, he produced breaking news segments and short features for NPR. Cooper recently graduated from Tufts University with degrees in Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.

 

Ways to Connect

Blackjewel LLC Operations
Prime Clerk

On August 6, West Virginia Judge Frank Volk approved the motion for Contura Energy to purchase Blackjewel's assets in Wyoming pending resolution of tax conflicts with the federal government. In a Blackjewel filing, it wrote a sale to Contura would keep both Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines open "for an estimated minimum of six to twelve years."

Bloomberg compiled S & P data
Bloomberg

Amid coal bankruptcies, increasingly cost-efficient oil and gas companies, and a trade war underway, the energy sector has dropped to its lowest share of the S & P 500 in a long time. S & P 500 is an index of major companies that represent the U.S. stock market.

Screenshot from Interior's Response to a Contura Sale
Prime Clerk

U.S. District Judge in West Virginia Frank Volk has approved the motion for Contura Energy to purchase Blackjewel LLC's two Wyoming mines: Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr. Though, there are still hoops to jump through. The court will need to settle a lasting issue with the federal government along with remaining challenges with title and lease transfers.

Blackjewel Belle Ayr sign
Vikki Strande/Facebook

Judge Frank Volk has approved Contura Energy as the stalking horse bidder of Blackjewel's Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines, along with a mining complex in West Virginia. The company will put down a deposit of $8.1 million to fund the sale process and pay another $12.5 assuming no party outbids them. Contura's offer is now set as the low bar, or stalking horse, bid.

Contura Energy logo
Contura Energy

Three weeks after filing for Chapter 11 reorganization, coal company Blackjewel L.L.C. has a plan to keep operating some of its mines. Contura Energy is willing to put down the money to become the stalking horse bidder and potentially take over and operate several mines including Wyoming's Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr. Contura already holds the mining permits and reclamation bonds for the two mines.

Cloud Peak Energy's Antelope Mine customers
IEEFA

Tomorrow, July 25, is the last day Cloud Peak Energy will accept new bids to purchase its assets, which include Cordero Rojo and Antelope mines. The coal company filed for bankruptcy in May after cash difficulties that stem back to 2009.

Blackjewel's Eagle Butte mine shipments in 2017
U.S. Energy Information Administration

On July 5, Travis McRoberts, an attorney representing the recently bankrupt coal company Blackjewel, gave insight into a reorganization plan.

Blackjewel Belle Ayr sign
Vikki Strande/Facebook

Blackjewel employees in Wyoming could soon miss their second payday; it's approaching quickly on July 26. The recently bankrupt coal company has already passed one payday on July 12 since filing for Chapter 11 reorganization on the first of July.

Karin Kirk, Yale Climate Connections

In 2015 and 2016, three massive coal companies in Wyoming filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy: Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources and Peabody Energy.

Coal mines north and east of Gillette Campbell County Airport, including the Eagle Butte Mine
Public Domain

Blackjewel L.L.C. will be able to draw on $2.9 million in additional short-term funding to keep its bankruptcy proceedings alive. A West Virginia bankruptcy court held an emergency hearing for stakeholders to present their case for or against the proposal.

Blackjewel map of operations
Prime Clerk

Blackjewel L.L.C is about to enter its fourth week since filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the less orderly, Chapter 7 liquidation, option is still on the table. Creditors for the company have now submitted a proposal for more short-term money as they continue negotiating a long-term debtor-in-possesion financing plan.

Seven Mile Hill Wind Farm in Carbon County
Cooper McKim

Wind power expansion in our region could soon face a new challenge. The International Trade Commission is considering a tariff on wind turbines. Domestic manufacturers argue several countries are selling turbines below fair prices, undercutting the U.S. industry.

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions from 2005 to 2019
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Power producers still intend to move forward with coal plant retirements despite a Clean Power Plan replacement under the Trump Administration. S & P Global Market Intelligence spoke with several major utilities with pre-existing plans to retire coal capacity. Taylor Kuykendall, a co-author, found the Affordable Clean Energy rule isn't changing anyone's minds.

Rory Wallett stationed in his office since July 1. This is where he's spent most of his time coordinating with workers around the country
Cooper McKim

More than a week has passed since Blackjewel filed for bankruptcy and sent home 576 workers. They're still waiting to hear if they're laid off or heading back to work soon. Employees are stuck in limbo, but many are not struggling to keep busy.

Hourly rates for Squire Patton Boggs attorneys, the debtors counsel
Prime Clerk

Blackjewel has yet to publicly announce any plans to reopen the gates at Eagle Butte or Belle Ayr mines this week. That would require a hearing to confirm long-term debtor-in-posession (DIP) financing - an elusive prospect for a company that's struggled to secure much cash in court.

Informational session held for former Blackjewel employees
Cooper McKim

Former Blackjewel workers still have health insurance. Twenty to 30 percent of dislocated employees have found new jobs. Not all mine customers have abandoned Blackjewel. That's the good news coming from Brandy Elder, Blackjewel's Human Resources manager, at an information session in Gillette on Monday.

Blackjewel LLC Operations
Prime Clerk

A shovel operator named J.D. Dietsche went to work at the Eagle Butte coal mine, owned by Blackjewel, on July 1 expecting a normal day. It wasn’t long before he learned that would not be the case.

Prime Clerk logo
Prime Clerk

It's been two days since Blackjewel LLC abruptly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and locked the gates at its two Wyoming mines. It turned out the West Virginia private company was in a more financially dire situation than many knew. The early stages did not go as planned, but the presiding judge has approved $5 million in interim funds.

Since 4 p.m. yesterday, Gillette's Wyoming Workforce Center has seen 160 people visit from Blackjewel. This morning, the center opened up early and still had people lined up at the door. The West Virginia coal company Blackjewel LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy yesterday and has since closed the doors to its mines due to a lack of cash.

Blackjewel map of operations
Prime Clerk

UPDATE 07/02/19 1:21 p.m.

Blackjewel lawyers filed several documents with the court imploring them for an emergency hearing on supplementary debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing. The company has found an alternative DIP structure with funding coming from an "interested third-party." Without the funding, the Chapter 11 bankrutpcy could turn into a Chapter 7.

Doc 14-2 Exhibit B - a map of Blackjewel's Wyoming assets
Prime Clerk

Blackjewel LLC, a West Virginia-based coal company, has voluntary filed for relief under a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. The company operates 32 properties and holds more than 500 mining permits around the country. Blackjewel acquired its two Wyoming assets, the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines, in late 2017 through Alpha Natural Resources bankruptcy.

money
CC0 Public Domain

The recently bankrupt coal giant Cloud Peak Energy is struggling to find short-term cash. The company initially got a loan for up to $35 million to stay operational through the bankruptcy process, but that well seems to have run dry.

New schedule For the Carbon XPRIZE competition
NRG Cosia Carbon XPRIZE

An international competition underway in Wyoming has pushed back its deadline by several months. The $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition has five competitors located around the world; each tasked with developing a technology that can turn carbon dioxide into a valuable product. Soon, all groups will be set up and demonstrate their technologies at the Integrated Test Center (ITC) near the Dry Fork Station in Gillette.

Peabody Energy

Two of the largest coal producers are combining forces to better compete with natural gas and renewable energy. Peabody and Arch Coal are consolidating seven of their mines - five in Wyoming and two in Colorado. They hope to save over $800 million over the next decade, but await regulatory hurdles before sealing the deal. Wyoming Public Radio’s Cooper McKim talks to S & P Global Market Intelligence coal reporter Taylor Kuykendall. He explains what the collaboration means for the companies, the coal industry, and Wyoming going forward.

Stock photos of coal/oil and gas operations
Cooper McKim / Stock Photos

Arch Coal and Peabody Energy recently announced it would consolidate seven of their mines; five of which are located in the Powder River Basin. If the venture passes regulatory hurdles, the move will create the largest coal producer in the country controlling a significant percentage of national coal production.

Net generation by renewable sources across all sectors. Two fastest growing are wind (orange line) and solar (green line)
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Multiple proposals from Democratic presidential candidates are calling for a full transition from fossil fuels to renewables over the next 10 years. Independent analytics firm Wood Mackenzie was interested in the numbers behind those proposals. It found a transition would take closer to 20 to 30 years. Dan Shreve, head of global wind energy research at Wood Mackenzie, co-authored the report.

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