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Goldman Sachs withdraws backing for US coal terminal

World Coal,

Goldman Sachs has sold its 49% stake in the SSA Marine (A Carrix company) Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project. The proposed coal terminal near Bellingham, Washington, is set to become the West Coast’s biggest coal export project. However, Goldman Sachs has now withdrawn its significant financial backing.

In 2013, the international banking behemoth published a research paper titled “The window for thermal coal investment is closing”, and, while other research papers forecast future opportunities in coal investment, it appears as though the bank has grown impatient with the slow speed of the GPT project. According to an article by Floyd McKay, professor of journalism emeritus at Western Washington University, “Goldman may have become impatient with the length of proceedings to secure permits for the US$ 664 million project.”

New investment

Despite Goldman’s withdrawal, SSA Marine was pleased to announce that Fernando Chico Pardo, a well-known Mexican business man, has purchased Goldman’s 49% stake through a holding company. The Smith/Hemingway family, which retains a controlling 51% ownership interest in the project, has also significantly increased its investment in FRK Capital Corp., the parent company to which SSA Marine is attached.

“We are delighted to welcome Fernando as a shareholder in FRS Capital Corp.,” Knud Stubkjaer, CEO of Carrix said. “He has an impressive track record in building leading companies and modern infrastructure and we look forward to working with him. Together with the Smith/Hemingway family, we are fortunate to have two highly respected and supportive families behind Carrix, with the same strong focus to provide quality service to our customers and to continue our expansion.”

The GPT project would transfer 48 million tpa of Wyoming coal from trains to ocean-going vessels bound for Asia.

Environmental activism

In Autumn 2013, the terminal was part of a contentious local election in which environmentalists and climate activists put forward significant amounts of financial backing to help their preferred candidates win local official seats, with the proviso that they then oppose the terminal as it applies for permits. While there has been scrutiny over this so called ‘buying’ of elections and political influence, this is in itself an example of what Michael Roche, CEO of Queensland Resources Council, called ‘Environmental extremism’ at the Coaltrans World Coal conference in Berlin, October 2013.

Roche explained that such environmentalists were adept at manipulating public opinion, particularly through viral social media campaigns and the spreading of disinformation.

With so much of the world now connected and active on social media platforms, Roche said, environmental activists can hi-jack the good will of social media users and exploit this in order to spread a false message to serve their own purpose. Coal is now the popular fuel source to attack, Roche said. Environmental activist campaigns can “shut down ports”, according to Roche and prevent projects that have real local, national and international benefits – both economical and social – from reaching completion. 

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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