Contact: Scott Jensen (202) 249-6511  

WASHINGTON (May 13, 2015) - American Chemistry Council (ACC) President and CEO Cal Dooley  testified today before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials to discuss the progress achieved under the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 and how Congress can help move the nation's freight rail polices forward to address mounting challenges.

Wednesday's hearing took place as a growing chorus of U.S. manufacturers, farmers and energy producers are calling on Congress to support reforms that will improve how the Surface Transportation Board (STB) resolves freight rail issues. The newly-formed  Rail Customer Coalition consists of 48 trade associations representing industries that employ 4.7 million people, contribute $2.4 trillion in economic output and make up the bulk of freight rail customers.

Rail customers have seen rates double over the last decade as competition has dwindled-with just four major railroads now controlling 90 percent of the market. Even as rates have soared, freight rail service has become more unreliable. To help address these ongoing rate and service issues, the Rail Customer Coalition supports advancing the reforms in the " Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015 ," which was introduced by Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and recently passed out of that same Committee with strong bipartisan support.

"We need the freight rail system and the mechanisms established by the Staggers Rail Act to ensure fair and efficient service to operate well," said Dooley . "However, it has become increasingly apparent that the primary means established by Congress to foster a healthy and competitive rail system, the STB, is badly in need of reforms that respond to the dramatic change in the freight rail landscape since the Staggers Rail Act passed in 1980."

Dooley pointed to  specific reforms supported by the Rail Customer Coalition that would help the Board operate more effectively, including streamlining the STB's overly burdensome rate review standards, allowing shippers access to a second railroad through competitive switching, reforming rate bundling protections, closing rate review loopholes and providing reasonable arbitration procedures to resolve rate disputes.

"Profitable railroads and an efficient and fair rate resolution process are not mutually exclusive, a fact that was validated by the introduction and committee passage of legislation to make reasonable reforms to the STB by Senator John Thune and Senator Bill Nelson," said Dooley. "Reforming the STB to provide for more effective rate disputes is common sense, so much so that not even the railroads opposed the Senate bill."

"We are encouraged by this Committee's interest in STB reform and hope it is just the beginning of continued oversight on this important issue," Dooley concluded. "We thank you for your interest in implementing reforms that will help both shippers and the railroads thrive, and we look forward to working with you to make reform proposals a reality."  

» View Dooley's full testimony

» Learn more about freight rail reform


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