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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Seven senators urge majority leader to bring antitrust enforcement bill to Senate floor

Seven U.S. senators last week sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) urging him to bring the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2007 (S. 772) to the Senate floor for full consideration.

The letter was signed by Sens. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and David Vitter (R-La.).

The bill, which proposes to remove railroads' antitrust exemptions, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee late last year by a bipartisan unanimous vote and has been awaiting Senate consideration. The House is considering a companion bill (H.R. 1650).

Currently, railroad mergers and acquisitions are exempt from antitrust law and reviewed by the Surface Transportation Board. In addition, railroads engaging in collective ratemaking are exempt from antitrust review. S. 772 would eliminate those exemptions by allowing the federal government, state attorneys general and private parties to file suit to enjoin anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions.

"The nation's freight railroads today enjoy broad exemptions from U.S. antitrust laws," the letter states. "While there may have been a need for such exemptions when the federal government played an outsized role in the regulation and management of railroad operations, that is no longer the case. Enactment of the [bill] would simply subject the railroads to the nation's antitrust laws like virtually every other industry in our economy, including both those that operate in deregulated as well as regulated markets."

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More News from 2/11/2008