PSC urges STB to take action against railroad delays
BISMARCK — North Dakota’s Public Service Commission on Wednesday urged railroads to make faster progress on reducing the backlog of grain cars available so that farmers and elevators can transport last year’s crop to market before this year’s harvest arrives, according to a release.
In a letter to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, the PSC wrote that it “is very concerned about the ongoing delays North Dakota producers and grain dealers are experiencing for rail service.” It urged “immediate action, similar to your work this spring on fertilizer shipments.”
The PSC said North Dakota’s producers and elevators could “suffer significant financial harm” if railroads don’t catch up soon.
Grain cars shipments to North Dakota from both BNSF Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway are overdue. The late cars stem mostly from the aount of oil tank cars being shippped through the state to keep pace with record production in the Bakken Oil Patch.
A July 25 report showed that BNSF had 2,259 overdue cars, according to the release, while Canadian Pacific’s backlog is unknown because of the tracking mechanism it uses. The PSC stated that the reported showed Canadian Pacific customers are waiting an average of 11 weeks for grain cars.
“Inadequate rail service has caused severe financial losses for our producers and elevators on the 2013 crop,” Commissioner Randy Christmann said in a statement. “Furthermore, inadequate service is already devastating the 2014 cycle because elevators are unable to contract as they normally would if they could count on timely shipping. This is not only a problem for North Dakota because when the grain is dumped on the ground while waiting for transportation, the food supply loses quality and goes up in price. Thus, this is a problem for the whole country.”
The PSC is holding a meeting with railroads again at 1 p.m. today at the Capitol Building in Bismarck to receive a status report on eliminating the backlog and forming a plan for meeting the needs of producers.
The PSC is also exploring legal advice to see what actions can be brought forth in this situation, according to the release.