The Iowa Association of Electric Co-ops is holding its annual meeting in Des Moines and one of the continuing topics of discussion is rail transportation. Kenric Scheevel is an executive with the Dairyland Cooperative in La Crosse, Wisconsin which supplies power to several Iowa co-ops. Scheevel says the co-op concern is the cost transporting coal that’s burned to produce the electricity.

He says coal itself is cheap and it costs more to transport the coal than what it costs to buy the coal. Scheevel says the problem they face is the price of moving the coal is going up 100-percent for 2006. Scheevel says the deregulation of railroads left only four carriers in the country and cut down the options for his company. He says they’re “captive” meaning they can’t get competitive bids for hauling coal and the railroad can charge what it wants.

Scheevel says they’re trying to fight the increase in rail costs through legislation. Sheeval says one proposed law attempts to create some competition in the rail industry and “put some teeth” into the regulatory body. He says the other bill is the antitrust and competition bill. He says even though railroads were de-regulation, they still have monopoly authority, and he says the co-ops don’t think that’s a good blend.

Tom Miller is with the Hawkeye R-E-C that gets power from 55 to 60-percent of its electricity from Dairyland. He says one of the ways they’ve been trying to address the issue is through educating members through grass roots advocacy and their ambassador program. He says they want to educate the people so they can in turn talk to legislators. Miller says his customers will take a big hit if something isn’t done.

Miller says the average monthly bill for his customers is about 120 dollars and he says that’ll go up 15-percent or 18 dollars. The Hawkeye R-E-C serves about 63-hundred customers in Howard, Winneshiek and Chickasaw counties.