Utility executive asks Congress for help on rail delivery problems

30 May 2006 — David M. Wilks, president of energy supply for Xcel Energy, based in Minneapolis, US, testified Thursday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, outlining the challenges electric utilities have been facing in receiving reliable and timely deliveries of Powder River Basin coal for power generation. Wilks also testified on behalf of C.U.R.E., Consumers United for Rail Equity, and the Edison Electric Institute.

Wilks asked Senate lawmakers to enact legislation to help improve freight rail service by enhancing access to rail competition and directing federal regulators to protect rail customers from monopoly rates.

“Unfortunately, especially over the last couple of years, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain adequate coal stockpiles,” Wilks told the committee. The significant additional costs resulting from rail service failures have put additional upward pressure on consumers’ electricity rates, he said .

Wilks said that more than ever before, electric utilities that supply significant amounts of coal-fired generation depend heavily on the railroads for reliable and affordable long-distance shipments of coal. “In the wake of recent coal delivery challenges, utilities will need to work even more closely with the railroads to ensure that an effective coal supply chain is maintained. Congress can help the railroads be more responsive to their customers, as well, through needed oversight and legislative reforms.”