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STB Reform Steams Ahead

Jan 2017

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation published its Final Report of the 114th Congress, highlighting the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization (STBR) Act as one of its top accomplishments.  The report notes the Boards new options for resolving freight rail disputes and providing competitive options for shippers.  The report also provides an excellent example of what STB reform means for a professional in the chemical industry.

In 2016, we met with STB Board members to discuss shipper concerns and the process of implementing the STB Act.  We also provided a number of comments regarding STB’s arbitration procedures, particularly the onerous process of challenging high rates imposed on shippers.  We also praised the Board’s for their proposed rule to allow competitive switching on railroads and increase competition. 

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The STBR Act:

  • Expands the STB’s membership from three to five Board Members.
  • Allows a majority of STB Board Members to meet in private to discuss agency matters, subject to certain rules and procedures;
  • Gives the STB authority to investigate issues of national or regional significance and requires the Board to establish regulations governing such investigations;
  • Directs the STB to modify its voluntary arbitration process, including increases in the maximum damage awards;
  • Shortens timelines applicable to large rate case proceedings, including time limits for discovery and development of the evidentiary record;
  • Directs the Comptroller General of the United States (the head of the United States General Accountability Office) to begin a study of rail transportation contract proposals containing multiple origin-to-destination movements;
  • Requires STB preparation and publication of a rate case methodology report and various other reports.