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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Grain shippers object to rail carriers' views on STB's investigative authority


The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) is "strongly opposed" to the freight rail carriers' recommendations to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) on the board's new authority to investigate freight-rail issues.

The recommendations, represented by the Association of American Railroads (AAR), would make the STB's investigative tool "unusable," NGFA officials said in a prepared statement issued late last week.

For shippers, the STB's new authority under the Surface Transportation Act of 2015 to investigate freight-rail issues of regional or national significance is the most important part of the new law, according to NGFA.

"Previously, the STB was precluded from proactively responding to rail issues as promptly and forcefully as it perhaps otherwise could have – including the rail service crisis that gripped the nation during the fall, winter and spring of 2013-14," association officials stated.

In a response to comments filed with the STB earlier this month, the NGFA challenged the views submitted by rail carriers via the AAR.

The rail carriers' comments "generally appear to be an attempt to convince the Board to take as narrow a view of its new authority as possible and ultimately to undermine, complicate, make more cumbersome and costly, and potentially render unworkable the ability of the STB and affected rail customer parties to make use of the investigative authority mandated by Congress,” the NGFA noted.

Meanwhile, the STB's chairman and members testified Aug. 11 on the topic of freight-rail reform under the STB Reauthorization Act of 2015. The testimony was given at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The STB Chairman Daniel Elliott's statement can be read here; and members Ann Begeman here and Deb Miller, here.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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