Not even the Supreme Court’s temporary stay of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan limiting carbon emissions could produce a pop for shares of Peabody Energy, the big coal company, which is trading 97 percent below its 52-week high. The outlook for the coal industry isn’t much brighter.
The Supreme Court’s decision means utilities won’t have to cut back on burning coal from Peabody or any other company any time soon. Luke Popovich is with the American Mining Association, a plaintiff in a lawsuit to stop the Clean Power Plan. He said the industry is now hopeful.
“I think we will see a greater confidence within the coal community,” he said, “and among state legislatures and governors around the country that they don’t have to impose these costs on themselves.”
That is, the costs associated with complying with the government’s plan. Among them: abandoning old generating plants that burn coal.
Still, Kristoffer Inton, an equity analyst with Morningstar, said the industry is being squeezed from two directions. There are more and more rules to comply with on the one hand, and on the other, coal has walloped by the low price of natural gas, which also produced less carbon emissions.
“And then a company like Peabody, they find themselves in an even worse situation because they have so much debt,” he said.
Debt the company took on when the market was at its peak. Today coal is at its lowest production point since 1983.