Coalition to Address Rail Shipment Issues

A group of businesses, utilities, chambers of commerce and municipalities have formed Arkansas CURE (Consumers United for Rail Equity) to address issues caused by what members call "escalating rail shipping rates and declining rail service."
The Arkansas chapter is part of the national CURE organization, a growing grassroots coalition of railroad customers fighting unfair practices and demanding changes.
"Rail transportation problems have caused a major financial strain on Arkansas businesses and consumers," said Carmie Henry, VP for Governmental Affairs for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.
"Agriculture is highly dependent on rail transportation to move products to markets and some grain shippers have seen rail costs more than double. Major Arkansas employers, including the paper industry, chemical companies and steel producers, are experiencing not only steep cost increases to transport their products, but unreliable service as well," Henry said.
He also said rail transportation issues have significantly impacted the state's electricity providers, resulting in higher electric bills for commercial and residential consumers. The main issue, Henry said, is that the railroads aren't meeting contracted delivery levels of coal.
In 2005, a total disruption in coal delivery resulted in coal burn curtailments at Arkansas' coal-fired power plants, which ultimately cost electric cooperative members millions of dollars in energy cost adjustments. The increased costs came about because the cooperatives were forced to turn to higher cost natural gas-fired generation to make up the generation shortfalls, said Doug White, vice president of systems services for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.
Arkansas CURE members include the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Arkansas Forestry Association, Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, Entergy Arkansas Inc., the City of Jonesboro, the City of Pocahontas, the City of West Memphis, Conway Corporation, Cooper Communities Inc., Green Bay Packaging, Holiday Island Suburban Improvement District, Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, Stribling Packaging and Display, and Tyson Foods Inc.
Arkansas CURE is working with the national organization to focus on congressional policies and legislation affecting railroad competition. Specifically, CURE is calling for a common rail carrier "obligation to serve" standard when it comes to delivering products, like coal, that are critical to the U.S. economy.
The group plans to participate in a Rail Customers Day on March 15 in Washington, D.C., where they will encourage consumers, industry and business owners to get involved by contacting their legislators and asking them to reject the monopoly practices of America's freight railroads.