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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, May 23, 2006
CONTACT: Christine Hibbeler, (605) 773-3201

PUC Chairman Sahr to testify before U.S. Senate committee

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Chairman Bob Sahr is scheduled to testify at a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in Washington, D.C., on May 25. The committee has requested testimony about the coal supplies needed by electric generation facilities and the timely delivery of coal by railroads.

"Consumers in South Dakota and across the country face rising electricity costs because of the failure of railroads to deliver adequate coal supply to power plants," Sahr said. "I applaud Congress for holding this hearing and look forward to bringing the consumer's perspective to this vital issue."

Regional power plant owners have explained how coal shortages are forcing them to curtail production, reduce their coal stockpiles and purchase more expensive replacement electricity on the open market, according to Sahr. For instance, officials from the Big Stone Power Plant near Milbank estimate the additional costs to retail customers at $3 million per month.

"Especially at a time when our nation is trying to move to energy independence and more efficient use of resources, it is a travesty we have coal plants ready to produce low cost power for consumers but are forced to cut production because of inadequate coal delivery," said Sahr.

Sahr also pointed out that reducing coal stockpiles leaves the plants vulnerable should weather, a rail accident or even a terrorist incident further hamper rail deliveries and prevent plants from getting the needed coal.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission hosted a forum in April to hear officials from Otter Tail Power Company and Basin Electric Power Cooperative discuss the effect the coal delivery shortage has on their business. BNSF Railway also presented their perspective and the challenges they face and are attempting to overcome to address the delivery problem.

Sahr is expected to use these and several other South Dakota-specific illustrations in his testimony. He was invited to testify on behalf of the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners. Sahr testified earlier in the year on telecommunications issues before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.


Media Note: To view a live Web cast of this hearing at 10 a.m. EDT (9 a.m. CDT/8 a.m. MDT) on Thursday, May 25, go to and click on the "Live Webcast" link in the lower left-hand corner of the page.