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ICYMI: What They’re Saying About Bipartisan Surface Transportation Board Reforms

“With Senator Thune’s leadership we have seen much improved rail service in 2015.” – Tom Hitchcock, CEO of Redfield Energy

June 19, 2015

In case you missed it, here’s what South Dakota stakeholders are saying about U.S. Sen. John Thune’s (R-S.D.) bipartisan Surface Transportation Board (STB) Reauthorization Act of 2015, which passed the Senate last night by unanimous consent:

“South Dakota Wheat Growers is pleased by the Senate’s adoption of Senator Thune’s Surface Transportation Board reform bill, and we appreciate Senator Thune’s leadership on this issue,” said Roger Krueger, Senior Vice President of SD Wheat Growers. “Rail service is paramount to our farmer members, as it increases their competitiveness in markets around the country and around the globe. This bill is an important step in enhancing the effectiveness of the U.S. rail system, to provide efficient movements of our producers’ agronomic inputs, and agricultural output. We encourage the House of Representatives to take it up as soon as possible.”

“Ensuring timely and reliable delivery of our products is a crucial part of everyday business at POET,” said Jeff Broin, POET Founder and Executive Chairman. “This bipartisan bill will make important and necessary reforms to the Surface Transportation Board and is just one step on the path toward a more efficient transportation infrastructure. I would like to thank Senator Thune for his leadership on this issue, which is not only relevant to our business, but to agriculture across the Midwest.”

“Reliable rail service is vitally important to South Dakota’s ag industry,” said Tom Hitchcock, CEO of Redfield Energy. “Slow rail car return times in late 2013 and the first half of 2014 negatively impacted our state’s grain producer’s bottom lines. When major rail issues develop it’s important for the STB to deal with them in an expedited and efficient manner. This legislation will improve the process of addressing the concerns of those shipping their products on our nation’s railroads. With Senator Thune’s leadership we have seen much improved rail service in 2015.”

“Senator Thune has worked hard on getting a balanced bill that provides greater protection for rail shippers including electric utilities that ship coal to generate electricity for their customers while at the same time recognizing we need railroads to be financially healthy as they invest in their systems to continue to provide service,” said Tom Heller, CEO of Missouri River Energy Services.

“South Dakota’s rural electric cooperatives appreciate the leadership Senator Thune continues to bring forward on rail issues that affect all South Dakota citizens,” said Ed Anderson, general manager of South Dakota Rural Electric Association. “Availability and affordability of rail transportation is critical to most industries in South Dakota, particularly agriculture and energy and we appreciate his efforts.”

“We want to commend and thank Senator Thune for his leadership in striking this bipartisan bill with Senator Nelson,” said Paul Sukut, CEO and general manager of Basin Electric. “As a rail customer who has spent the last 10 years contesting unfair rates at the STB, Basin Electric has long advocated for reforms at the STB to make the agency more nimble in how it responds to shipper concerns. By expanding the STB to five members and giving commissioners the ability to discuss official business without the need for a full hearing, this legislation will go a long way to achieving the STB’s statutory responsibility to protect captive rail customers from exorbitant rates.”

"Dakota Mill & Grain applauds the passage of this important legislation. These proactive changes to the STB will only help SD farmers stay competitive and relevant in today's marketplace. This endorsement of Senator Thune's efforts will provide means for both transportation providers and users to work together on the crucial need for market access."

"The first time we visited with the Surface Transportation Board in Washington to register our concerns over rail service, they revealed frustration over their very limited amount of authority to help us," said Jim Seurer, CEO of Glacial Lakes Energy. "At that time, we didn’t think legislative changes were possible but Senator Thune surely did and, through Senate Bill 2777, brought about a common sense approach which we appreciate immensely.  He has stayed with this issue since Day 1 and we appreciate his support!”