An ethanol company has been ordered to cease construction of an ethanol truck-to-railcar transfer (or “transloading) station in Atlantic, because it did so without the City’s permission.
Outline of plans for a truck-to-railcar “Transloading station” in Atlantic.
City Administrator Doug Harris told KJAN News he found out about the matter on about August 23rd, when the City learned Poet Bio-Refining, LLC, began construction on what appeared to be some underground storage pits across the railroad tracks to the north of the Rock Island Depot. Harris said the issue was brought to his attention because the company had not asked for nor received a building or construction permit. He asked Zoning Administrator John Lund to issue a “Stop work order.”
Harris said City Attorney Dave Wiederstein has been in contact with the company, and a meeting has been set-up for this Thursday morning between the City, and the attorneys for both the company and the City, to try and find out what happened, and what options are available, but the City may not have any say in the matter, because of Federal case law. Harris says it’s important to know what they City can do about numerous trucks filled with ethanol coming to transfer their loads into Iowa Interstate Railroad tanker cars. He says “Obviously we have some public safety concerns, and also potentially the impact on our roads with that many tanker trucks going through.” He says they’re trying to get a better handle on what’s taking place, and what authority the City has, if any.
He says the City wants to protect the safety of its citizens and prevent the roads from being beaten up. Commerce Street would be heavily impacted. Harris says the company apparently plans to truck ethanol from its production facility to Atlantic, because of its potential tax credits. He says there may be some financial advantage for them to ship the fuel here, but what is being built and how it will be accessed is unclear, and raises a lot of questions.
Atlantic Fire Chief Mark McNees said he first learned of the plans for a transloading station nearly a year ago, when he received an e-mail from officials with Poet Ethanol Products in Wichita, KS. McNees said Poet plans to truck ethanol from its plant in Coon Rapids, and possibly Corning, to Atlantic. An e-mail from Rail Portfolio Manager Christian McIlvain said as many as eight railcars at any given time will be loaded at the transloading station, each of which will be equipped with track spill pans to serve as a spill containment. The company intends to transload fuel from tanker trucks into as many as 25 railcars, weekly. Physical movement of the cars will be handled by crews with Iowa Interstate Railroad.
McNees said he’s satisfied the company will have the proper safety precautions in-place when the stations are built. He said he’s more concerned about the tanker trucks getting into an accident in or near town. Doug Harris at least for now, it appears the City may be unable to stop whatever plans Poet has for their Atlantic facility. Those plans may also include the grading and placement of gravel on the City’s right of way off of Commerce Street south on Chestnut, toward the tracks.