CEI Leads Coalition Urging Senators to Preserve Railroad Deregulation

Today, CEI and two dozen other organizations wrote to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Commerce Committee and Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee regarding upcoming confirmations of two members of the Surface Transportation Board (STB).

The STB is the nation’s railroad economic regulator and what largely remains of the infamous Interstate Commerce Commission. Recently, the STB opened a regulatory proceeding to reverse three decades of precedent in an effort to force backdoor price controls on the railroad industry. This action was spurred by powerful industrial shipping interests, which have been seeking to re-regulate the railroads since the industry was partially deregulated under the Staggers Rail Act of 1980.

The proceeding at issue involves eliminating what is known as the anticompetitive conduct requirement prior to the imposition of forced reciprocal switching arrangements, where carriers interchange one another’s traffic for a fee. The anticompetitive conduct requirement was born in the years immediately following deregulation and since then neither the STB nor the ICC before it was able to find any evidence of anticompetitive conduct on the part of the railroads. In essence, the STB now unlawfully proposes to convict the railroad industry of crimes that the STB concedes it has no evidence of occurring. If successful, the STB’s unprecedented regulatory action would turn back the clock on deregulation and threaten all the gains made by railroads, shippers, and consumers over the past three decades.

For these reasons, we urge Senate Commerce Committee leadership to respect the indisputable gains of deregulation and to keep this in mind throughout the confirmation process for new STB board members.

Read the coalition letter here.

Read background on the proceeding at issue here.

Read CEI’s comments to the STB on forced reciprocal switching here.