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Dairyland Power Genoa Plant

Dairyland Power Cooperative says it could run out of coal at its Genoa generating plant by January if the BNSF railroad doesn't rapidly accelerate deliveries.

An ongoing rail backlog that has stranded grain shipments across the Great Plains is now threatening to shut down a La Crosse-area power plant.

Dairyland Power Cooperative says it could run out of coal at its Genoa generating plant by January if the BNSF railroad doesn’t rapidly accelerate deliveries.

Halfway through the summer shipping season, the coal supply has dwindled to “perilous levels” and is falling further behind each week, according to a memo sent last week to lawmakers.

The La Crosse-based utility, which serves about 250,000 mostly rural customers, relies on coal to generate power at plants in Alma and Genoa. Alma is served directly by a BNSF rail line, while coal is shipped to Genoa on barges loaded at a terminal in southeast Iowa.

The utility typically stockpiles fuel before the Mississippi River closes to shipping in the fall.

Earlier this year Dairyland resorted to trucking coal to Alma when BNSF, its contracted carrier, fell behind. Now it says the railroad is not getting coal to its Iowa terminal.

Sean Craig, Dairyland’s manager of fuel supply, said the utility has few options because the plant is set up to burn low-sulfur coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and rail capacity is tight.

Xcel Energy, the area’s other primary utility, experienced fuel shortages in the first quarter at its three coal-burning plants in the Twin Cities area, but spokesman Brian Elwood said inventories have since returned to normal.

In addition to hauling up to 50 truckloads of coal per day to Alma, Dairyland has had to ration coal and purchase power on the market, which has increased costs.

“When we have to purchase power on the market … it’s supply and demand,” said spokeswoman Deb Mirasola.

Dairyland has raised wholesale energy prices for its 25 member cooperatives and municipal utilities, but Mirasola could not say if those increases have been passed on to consumers.

BNSF has attributed delays to harsh winter weather and a surge in rail shipments of grain, autos and shipping containers, but critics blame increased shipments of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields. Newly released shipping data show BNSF moving an average of five to six oil trains each day through La Crosse.

Whatever the reason, Dairyland is critical of BNSF for failing to meet a contract signed in 2011.

“BNSF has clearly had plenty of time to plan and prepare but has simply failed to do so,” the memo states.

BNSF is one of two railroads required to file weekly reports updating federal officials on efforts to catch up on grain shipments from the Dakotas, Montana and Minnesota.

The railroad issued a statement saying $5 billion in planned long-term improvements – including a second set of tracks through La Crosse – will help alleviate delays. Meanwhile it is adding locomotives and hiring crews.

“We continue to see some gradual improvements in service for customers along our Northern tier as new capacity comes online,” the statement read. “We remain focused on priority issues facing our customers and are working with them directly.”

In letters sent last week, lawmakers from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa urged the Surface Transportation Board to work with BNSF to resolve the issue.

Dairyland warns the railroad will need to triple its normal pace of deliveries through October to meet demand.

While shuttering a plant would not leave area residents in the dark, Dairyland said “continued poor service by BNSF will pose a significant risk to the reliability of the electric grid in the Midwestern region, as well as increase the likelihood of much higher electric rates for our members.”

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(32) comments

mtnbiker

Allenlee...read the article. I am neither for nor against the pipeline. I do work for the BNSF and I know for a fact that they are not worried about the pipeline. Putting the pipeline in will have ZERO affect on the number of oil trains. They can't pump that oil fast enough....plenty of oil to go around.

aceman

Allenlee the answer to your question is in the article. The coal is transported by rail to a depot in Iowa then loaded on a barge to Genoa.

Allenlee

One question: Since I have lived in Genoa all my life I have never seen a train car unload coal, all the coal I have seen comes off barges? Could some one explain! Is Dairyland pulling something to raise rates again?

Choover

Shocking this would be made into Obama's fault. Truly shocked.

Circling back to my earlier question: why doesn't the area get more energy from hydroelectric?

Sal Yodada

Warren Buffett owns Berkshire Hathaway which owns BNSF which hauls the oil that should be carried through pipelines like the Keystone pipeline which Obama won't allow because people like Buffett don't want because he owns Berkshire Hathaway which owns BNSF which makes more money from hauling oil which has a lot to do with the fact that Obama won't sign off on the Keystone pipeline.

See a pattern forming?

Cassandra

Straight out of Ayn Rand. But in this case it is the railroads going for the easy profit and putting the energy and food supplies at risk.

Choover

Serious question, I've only lived here a few years. I'm from Washington and we get almost all our power from our dams. How much do we get from the Mississippi here, or do we at all? If we don't why not?

Mobley

Maybe Dairyland will be able to bleed off some electricity of the CapX2020 line they pimped through the area.

inawe

Who is this "God" you speak of?

ChopChop

The one the christians say that they believe in and claim to follow.

inawe

Who is this "God" you speak of?

inawe

Who is this "God" you speak of?

crank

I'd say they should convert the plant to burn crude oil because there is plenty of oil on the trains. Unfortunately, that oil isn't destined to stay in the good ole U S of A.

They could reactivate the nuclear plant at Genoa but a passing oil train might explode, derail and leave us singing 'Turning Japanese'. It's way too risky...

Coal has been all but banned anyway (if not officially). The only answer is renewable sources of energy. We could burn all those Ash trees but regulations don't allow us to move 'em. I wonder how many rechargeable AA batteries it will take to heat my house this winter. Maybe I can get a grant from the government to study this.

The Veteran

Remember this in November when you vote!!!!!!!

The Veteran

Remember this in November when you vote!!!!!!!!!!!!

BudandDot

Yes Mocha1, you are spot on. If we get 10 oil pipelines running through our country, then the Canadian oil companies can get their product through our country to ship out to other countries while we see no change in gas prices..let's sell out our land more.Jobs? Sure. Couple thousand new jobs until project is completed, then only 50 full time jobs after.

mocha1

How about if the president would just make a decision instead of dithering and then industry could do what ever they have to do. Libs will be the first to go bonkers if God forbid one of these oil trains destroys one of the hundreds of cities they have to pass thru. Just look at the hand wring now at the proposal of a new track thru Lacrosse. The construction of the southern portion of the Keystone pipeline is having a tremendous positive economic impact on all of the small towns that are in its path. Many of the same arguments against the pipeline are just recycled from the opposition to the Alaska pipeline years ago. The tundra would be black with spilled oil, caribou would become extinct, little or no economic impact on Alaska economy. After viewing much of the pipeline myself I did not see any blackened areas. Caribou are in record numbers and Alaskans enjoy their oil benefit checks they receive every year. Sure there were issues but the overall good far outweighed bad.

mocha1

Here is a novel idea, why not build a pipeline to transport the oil. This would avoid the concern of the oil trains going thru cities and would free up the railroads to haul grain and coal. Part of the Keystone pipeline plan was to build a spur to connect to the Bakken ND fields and ship oil via pipeline to the refineries. Maybe if our president saw that the needs of Americans are more important than lizards and prairie chickens he would get off his duff and make a decision.

Lunatic

So what your saying is that a American citizen should be forced to give up their land so a Canadian company can make more money? Once that company sets foot on that land the citizen looses all rights to it and is never compensated for what the land is really with.

ChopChop

So, you are saying that avoiding inconveniencing a bunch of bloated, pampered humans is more important than the potential extinction of an entire species? A unique creature that was supposedly intentionally designed and created by "God"?

choker

All that oil would end up in the world market sold to the highest bidder.
Coal is a 19th century energy source. Perhaps switching to gas would at least be a 20th century solution.

olderthandirt

This is a master plan by the EPA and the Obama administration to get rid of coal in the U.S. Soon we all can pay through the nose for energy, crippling our country. Just ask the VA. coal industry! More jobs lost.

Lunatic

Hey, wake up! The Virginia coal industry had been loosing jobs long before Obama came around. Do you just look in the mirror and make stuff up and say now it is fact?

warmwxrulez

Grain, sand, oil, cars, coal, Amtrak, etc...sounds like we need more tracks, more rail capacity.

elocs

Concerning the safety of oil trains coming through La Crosse as well as adding another rail line here this doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence or trust in BNSF. I do detect a whiff of extortion here as well.

elocs

Concerning the safety of oil trains coming through La Crosse as well as adding another rail line here this doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence or trust in BNSF. I do detect a whiff of extortion here as well.

nels

Send a letter to lawmakers, that's sure to solve the problem. If they have a contract sue them and get enough money so the customers will not see an increase in rates. Lawmakers are too busy raising cash for November ,they couldn't waste their time on things that could happen in January.

lacrosseguy

The way these contracts work, if they fail to deliver, they just have to do so later at a cheaper rate. There is no guarantee that they will deliver anything on time.

Mobley

Bring back the nuclear.

RINO Cowboy

Yeah I'm sure they feel the same way in Fukushima, no?

lacrosseguy

Yeah, and we all know how great of a risk the La Crosse area is at for Tsunamis.

midcentury


The railroads have added so many oil trains ,which is limiting their capacity to handle what they are supposed to ship.Never mind this other freight used to pay the way before- now
it's all about the premiums that they can charge for the oil. We all pay for the cost of this
extra for the power-etc.

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