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American Shipper

STB extends CN acquisition oversight

The board will monitor the impact of Canadian National’s purchase of EJ&E West Company until 2017.

   The Surface Transportation Board voted last week for a two-year extension to its monitoring of Canadian National and Grand Trunk Corp.’s acquisition of EJ&E West Company.
   “In reaching its decision, the board expressed concern regarding the impacts on the surrounding communities of increased rail traffic on the EJ&E line,” according to an STB press release. “In particular, the board noted the connection between increased train traffic and increases in vehicle traffic delay, noise, and air emissions — as well as a recent spike in blocked crossings on the EJ&E line.”
   Ann Begeman, in an opinion dissenting the ruling, wrote that simply renewing old requirements will not accomplish anything. She conceded that “a modest extension” of the reporting requirements may have been appropriate.
   “However, instead of reviewing the host of reporting requirements imposed six years ago and assessing what information remains useful, the majority has decided to simply extend the same requirements for two more years,” she wrote. “The majority’s rationale for taking this action is the ‘recent rail congestion in the Midwest, particularly in Chicago.’”
   She added that by continuing this oversight, the other board members are acknowledging that rail congestion and rampant service problems will be the norm for another two years.
   “If that is indeed the majority’s view, the board should immediately intensify its efforts and determine what more must be done to meaningfully address service congestion throughout the Chicago area,” she wrote. “Data collection alone is not enough.”
   In the majority opinion, Chairman Daniel Elliott and Vice Chairman Deb Miller wrote that Begeman’s concerns are completely valid, but that they are outside the scope of the issue at hand.   
   “We acknowledge the dissent’s general concerns with rail service in Chicago and, despite some of the dissent’s implications, share those concerns,” they wrote. “But the issue before us in this docket is narrower than ways to improve service in Chicago in general — the question facing the board here is whether this is the appropriate time to end our oversight conditions in this proceeding.”  
   The board approved CN’s purchase in 2008, but said it would monitor the transaction’s impact on service levels for five years. In early 2014, it ruled that the oversight period would be extended to Jan. 23, 2015. With the new decision, CN will be monitored until Jan. 23, 2017.

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