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Fight over 'juice' to Napa rail site gets settled before state regulators

PIERRE -- State regulators agreed Tuesday to dismiss the dispute between two utilities competing to deliver electricity to a proposed grain elevator and railroad center in northern Yankton County.

PIERRE - State regulators agreed Tuesday to dismiss the dispute between two utilities competing to deliver electricity to a proposed grain elevator and railroad center in northern Yankton County.

Instead NorthWestern Energy and Bon Homme Yankton Electric Association will serve the portions of the site that are within their official service territories.

Dakota Plains Ag Center wanted NorthWestern, an investor-owned company, to be its sole provider.

Bon Homme Yankton Electric, which contested the NorthWestern deal, is a member-owned rural cooperative.

Dakota Plains plans to construct along the state-owned Napa-Platte railroad line at its junction with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad line.

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A large oval loading track would be part of the complex.

Approximately half of the project would be within NorthWestern's service corridor and the other half would be in Bon Homme Yankton territory.

The fight had Dakota Plains and NorthWestern wanting a contract with deviations, which is allowed if a customer plans to be large user of electricity.

A NorthWestern distribution line runs along the eastern edge of the site.

Bon Homme Yankton and the South Dakota Rural Electric Association opposed the deal.

The sides spent the past four months battling before the state Public Utilities Commission.

Dakota Plains and NorthWestern needed the PUC's permission to proceed on the contract.

As the dispute intensified in May and early June, many documents received confidential status by the commission.

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The commission decided June 10 to require Dakota Plains to produce information sought by Bon Homme Yankton Electric about the planned usage of electricity by Dakota Plains.

On June 24 the sides agreed to ask the commission to set a new hearing date rather than proceed with the schedule for July 5.

That stipulation carried signatures by attorneys for all four parties and the PUC staff.

Nothing further transpired in the public file until a stipulation to dismiss dated July 25.

The lawyers said little or nothing Tuesday during the commission's consideration of the dismissal request.

Al Brogan, a Montana-based lawyer for Northwestern, said the contract was intended to protect other Northwestern customers.

Commissioner Kristie Fiegen praised the dismissal.

"It's always nice when all parties work together," she said.

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Fiegen called the Dakota Plains project "a great economic development tool in the Yankton area."

There currently is little traffic on the Napa-Platte rail line, which runs through a large agricultural area

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