NEW RAIL BILL INVITES ANTITRUST SCRUTINY
Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., introduced a bill Monday in the House of Representatives that would tighten review standards for rail mergers and bring U.S. railroads under antitrust laws for the first time.
Pomeroy, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said his bill would protect shippers and farmers from unfair practices brought on by rail mergers. The legislation would also give the U.S. Justice Department authority to approve rail mergers. Under current law, the Surface Transportation Board approves mergers.
The STB imposed a 15-month moratorium on rail mergers in March. During the moratorium, the STB said it will seek to come up with new rules that would take into account congestion, service failures and safety issues that sprouted during previous mergers in the 1990s.
The moratorium is being challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals by Canadian National and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, who announced plans to merger last December. Oral arguments in the case will be held in Washington June 13.
The bill is endorsed by the American Farm Bureau, the National Association of Wheat Growers, Northern States Power, the American Forest and Paper Association and the National Association of Chemical Distributors.
Pomeroy's bill, introduced relatively late in an election year, is unlikely to progress in this Congressional session. Pomeroy said he would introduce it again next year, if necessary.