Boardmembers from the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives recently met with the Iowa congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. to talk about rail transportation costs.
Roger Arthur of the Allamakee-Clayton Electric Coop in Postville says the organization is concerned about the increases in shipping costs. Arthur, who is an association boardmember, says some coops have seen their cost of coal go up dramatically.
Arthur says rail costs of shipping had a 95-percent increase overnight. He says the coal used to cost the same as the shipping cost, but in one day, the cost of shipping doubled over the cost of coal. Arthur says other electric companies are finding the same problem.
Arthur says members of Alliant Energy were in Washington D.C. too and they’ve learned they’ll receive an 86-percent increase in shipping costs of coal to their Ottumwa plant. He says the electric companies are "being held captive" by what is now only four railroads. Arthur says before the railroads were de-regulated in the 1980’s there was much more competition, which made shipping costs lower. Arthur says the railroads have antitrust protection, which keeps the electric companies from suing when the shipping rates go way up.
Arthur says Iowa’s Attorney General has signed on with 15 other Attorneys General raising concern that there’s no recourse for the electric companies because of the antitrust law. Arthur, who is a farmer, says he’s concerned that the shipping costs are going to hurt other areas too, such as the ethanol industry.
Arthur says farmers need to ship some of the gallons of ethanol, and distillers grain at a fare rate. Arthur says there’s a bill in the U.S. House and one in the U.S. Senate that seek to address the issue. But, he says it’s a slow process.