Friday, March 22, 2013

AAR spurns Senate antitrust bill

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The Association of American Railroads late Thursday voiced strong objetction to introduction of the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act, earlier in the day, by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).

AAR said that "while the bill claims to repeal freight railroads' limited antitrust exemptions, it actually singles out railroads for policies that could undermine the industry's ability to build, maintain, and continuously upgrade the nation's rail infrastructure without taxpayer assistance."

"This bill proposes sweeping changes that would negatively impact this country's freight rail industry," said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. "Sections of this bill are designed to override existing regulatory decisions and could potentially roll back government-approved transactions in railroad history. That retroactive application would inevitably create conflicts and uncertainty for railroads, railroad customers and courts. The resulting regulatory uncertainty could undermine the private freight railroads' ability to sustain necessary and critical private investments in America's rail infrastructure.

"There's one thing in Washington that everyone agrees on, and that is our nation's infrastructure needs attention and serious investment," Hamberger asserted. "Freight railroads have invested more than $526 billion in private capital over the past three decades — half a trillion dollars — into America's rail infrastructure so taxpayers didn't have to. A regulatory environment that encourages private investment should remain a priority."

Hamberger noted that railroads are subject to most antitrust laws already, contrary to what some believe, and in areas where they do have limited exemptions, railroads are regulated by the Surface Transportation Board. "Bear in mind, there is no gap in government oversight of railroad activities," he said.