Rail delays knock Minnesota power plant units offline

Iron Range newsFor more than a year, rail congestion in the Upper Midwest has created high-profile delays for the iconic Empire Builder passenger train. Oil and coal trains out of the western Dakotas and Montana have clogged rails from Williston to Chicago.

This week, however, brought the issue to another level. Wisconsin Public Radio reported yesterday that Minnesota Power has idled four coal-fired power generation units on the eastern Iron Range and North Shore because the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad is unable to deliver necessary coal on time.

According to the story, which was reprinted in the Duluth News Tribune, the affected units at the Laskin Energy facility in Hoyt Lakes and Taconite Harbor on the North Shore will perform maintenance operations instead. Nevertheless, officials are saying this is an unprecedented supply line issue.

The reason is wholly clear. Existing transportation infrastructure is not able to handle the oil boom. But companies know that investing is expensive, and expansions might not be ready by the time the boom ends. We haven’t seen these kinds of problems on Minnesota rails in almost a century.


  1. North Dakota is doing their thing, digging up energy sources, creating jobs and livelihoods for thousands, and helping the U.S. become energy independent. Minnesota should do their thing, build more windmills and solar panels, create even more jobs and help the U.S. become even more energy independent. This isn’t a problem, but an opportunity..a win win situation.

  2. The pipeline talk heats up; send all that oil down a pipe to Duluth (or Texas, Sioux Falls, SD, or…)

    Until the pipe breaks. Until we realize that someone will have to give up something they hold dear. Until politicians from local aldermen to Senators get on board to milk something from this.

    My head hurts. I’m going to go for a walk.

  3. Concerning the pipeline(s)…makes one wonder how we’ve all survived with the 2.5 million miles of existing pipelines that crisscross the U.S. Drives some folks nuts, but they still have their furnace on and drive their pickups to work. Not me, I use blankets and walk to work..

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