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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

NIT League backs STB reauthorization bill

The National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) on Sept. 12 announced its support of the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2014 (S. 2777), which U.S. Sens. John "Jay" Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced last week.

The bill proposes to expand the number of Surface Transportation Board (STB) members from three to five; eliminate a holdover limitation and allow limited board meetings without an initial public meeting notice, but with later public disclosure; allow the board to initiate some investigations and not just respond to complaints; and require the STB to establish a database of complaints and issue quarterly reports on them.

In addition, S. 2777 would change the case review process by requiring the board to establish timelines for stand-alone rate cases and a report on rate-case methodology; hold a proceeding on the impact of contract bundling on shippers; and codify an arbitration process for certain rate disputes and carrier complaints.

Ensuring that the STB has the resources it needs to carry out its statutory mandates is important to league members and rail shippers in general, said NITL President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Carlton in a press release. The legislation would expand board membership and its authority to help ensure that the nation’s rail system operates effectively and efficiently for the benefit of both railroads and shippers, he said.

"This bill is a shining example of effective and appropriate congressional oversight to give this important federal agency needed new tools and direction," said Carlton. [The senators] have managed to draft a bill that does not re-regulate the rail industry but appropriately requires the STB to achieve more balance in its policies and determine the necessary degree of economic regulation for the freight rail industry."

Rail shipper coalition Consumers United for Rail Equity and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) also endorsed the bill, which was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

"Today's freight-rail policies are more than 30 years old and have not kept pace with the massive changes in how the freight-rail industry operates, which is having a serious impact on shippers," ACC officials said in a press release. "We believe it is time to pursue reforms at the STB that would give shippers better access to more competitive and reliable freight-rail service."

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More News from 9/16/2014