Rockefeller introduces rail reform bill
Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.V., said legislation to reregulate the railroad industry would be a priority this year for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that he chairs.
Rockefeller this week introduced S.158, the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2011. He introduced similar STB reauthorization legislation in December 2009 but the Senate never voted on the bill.
Rockefeller said the bill would improve rail service, create new jobs and make the industry and U.S. goods more competitive here and abroad.
In a press release, Rockefeller said the bill would “comprehensively update and improve the economic oversight of the railroad industry and address longstanding, competitive imbalances for shippers by increasing rail competition, strengthening federal oversight, and improving shippers' access to regulatory relief.”
He said the legislation would:
' Increase rail competition by requiring major railroads to quote 'bottleneck rates,' set standards for 'reciprocal switching' and 'terminal access' rates, create a process for parties to challenge 'paper barriers,' and increase STB scrutiny of future railroad mergers for competitive, service, and environmental effects.
' Strengthen STB oversight of the railroad industry by updating the rail transportation policy, giving the board independent investigative authority, and creating a strong rail customer advocate to help resolve shippers' concerns.
' Improve shippers' access to regulatory relief by improving the processes by which rate complaints are resolved, requiring railroads to provide service standards to shippers, requiring the STB to review current class exemptions for unregulated railroad traffic, and by setting lower fees for filing complaints at the STB.
Separately, the STB said it will hold a hearing on May 3 to 'explore the current state of competition in the railroad industry and possible policy initiatives to promote more rail-to-rail competition.' ' Chris Dupin