Severe Fuel Supply Emergency Response Act of 2015 Introduced to Coordinate Response when Unreliable Rail Service Threatens Coal Supplies at Minnesota Power Plants

May 26, 2015, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) Press Release.
Sen. Franken’s New Measure Would Coordinate Response When Unreliable Rail Service Threatens Coal Supplies at Minnesota Power Plants
Senator Says Temporary Shutdowns at Minnesota Utilities Last Winter Showed Need for Plan When Coal Stockpiles Dwindle to Dangerous Levels
WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/26/15]— U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has introduced a new measure to help prevent a repeat of last winter, when coal-fired power plants were forced to shut down temporarily because unreliable rail delivery issues caused coal stockpiles to dwindle to dangerously low levels.
Sen. Franken, a member of the Senate Energy Committee, said a number of Minnesota utilities were forced to take extraordinary measures—including temporary shutdowns—when unreliable and backlogged rail service prevented important coal deliveries.  The new bill would put in place a coordinated response to the growing number of coal supply emergencies that affect power plants in Minnesota and across the country.
“In Minnesota, we know that our utilities need dependable fuel supplies so they can provide heat to homes and businesses, and prevent rising energy costs for consumers,” said Sen. Franken. “But when our railroads become unpredictable because of the growing competition to ship not only coal, but also farm, business and other energy commodities, we need a plan to ensure that our power plants can continue to operate reliably and uninterrupted. My bill outlines a coordinated response when our coal stockpiles are unexpectedly threatened.”
Sen. Franken’s bill, the Severe Fuel Supply Emergency Response Act of 2015, would direct the Secretary of Energy to lead the response to coal fuel supply emergencies by:
·       Promptly investigating the cause of the fuel shortage, and informing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Surface Transportation Board (STB) about the situation;
·       Convening a meeting with relevant stakeholders, including FERC, STB, and the Electric Reliability Organization and affected Regional Entities and Reliability Coordinators; and
·       Making written, publicly available recommendations for actions that would help alleviate and prevent recurrences of the severe fuel supply emergency.
Earlier this year, after a push from Sen. Franken, the STB required BNSF Railway Company to submit a detailed plan to mitigate future coal shortages.