Thursday, May 28, 2009

AAR urges action as Senate ponders rail antitrust bill

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The Association of American Railroads is urging concerned industry participants to contact their U .S. Senators quickly to voice concern over the proposed rail antitrust bill,  S. 146, now scheduled to hit the Senate floor June 2.  A link at AAR’s website, http://www.bipac.net/alert.asp?g=aar, offers one way to create and customize a letter for delivery; AAR is offering to forward any letter to the appropriate Senate representative.

S. 146, sponsoredby Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who sits on the Judiciary Committee, would repeal railroad antitrustexemptions and remove the Surface Transportation Board’s exclusive jurisdiction over the industry.  The June 2 vote will be to invoke cloture, or shut off debate, on the bill. AAR urges those contacting their representative to urge a vote against cloture, so that the bill will not go to the Senate floor for a vote.

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AAR maintains that S. 146, if enacted, would impose new and conflicting regulations, subjecting railroads to oversight by not only STB but the Department of Justice as well. Also, the bill could subject railroads to a duplicative and unnecessary dual regulatory scheme, allowing use of the court system for regulatory purposes.

Railroads have sought a more comprehensive approach to rail reform that more fairly meets the needs and concerns of shippers and the freight railroads. But if passed, S.146 would hamper freight railroads’ ability to invest back in their systems, constricting infrastructure investment and network growth and, in the end, industry jobs.

AAR and others, including the Railway Supply Institute (RSI), believe rail regulation issues should be handled by the Senate Commerce Committee, not the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), and John Thune (R-S.D.) of the Senator Commerce Committee have sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to all Senators urging them to vote against cloture.