By Sara Wyant
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, July 7 –The Surface Transportation Board (STB) officially granted shippers better access to the Board by reducing unreasonable practice complaint fees against a railroad to $350. This decision has been long sought by rail shippers, who argued that the previous $20,600 filing fee made the STB inaccessible to many shippers receiving poor treatment at the hands of what they describe as “the railroad monopoly.”
“The STB should be commended for its effort in lowering filing fees and encouraging previously unrepresented shippers to tell their stories before the commission,” says Glenn English, Chairman of Consumers United for Rail Equity (CURE), a coalition of railroad shippers. “However, this is the just one of many necessary reforms. We urge the STB to move forward on competitive access, categorical exemptions and other important rulemakings that can provide needed relief to rail-dependent shippers and American consumers.”
The decision fulfills a pledge by STB Chairman Dan Elliott to the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee at a hearing on national rail policy last September and a Feb. 15, 2011 notice of proposed rulemaking. In testimony before the committee, Elliot said he wanted to make the Board more accessible and said, “Filing fees should not deter parties from bringing disputes to the Board.”
While lowering filing fees for shippers is a victory for rail shippers, CURE continues to advocate for further reform of the STB and the freight rail industry. On Tuesday, Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) asked the Obama Administration to support S.49, the Rail Antitrust Enforcement Act, a bill seeking to eliminate antitrust exemptions protecting the freight rail monopoly. In a March letter to President Obama, the President’s Export Council also advocated for reforming the STB to increase rail competition to improve U.S. businesses and exports.
Union Pacific CEO Jim Young testified against additional regulations before the STB last month.
“If regulation reduces Union Pacific’s prospects for revenue growth, our investors will insist that we provide returns through higher dividend payments and more share repurchases now, rather than investing in growing the business. Our capital expenditures will decrease,” Young emphasized.
For more Agri-Pulse news, go to www.Agri-Pulse.com