US Senate panel approves rail anti-monopoly bill

05 March 2009 23:54  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The US Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a bill to end anti-monopoly exemptions for US rail carriers, including carriers of chemicals.

The committee sent the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act to the full Senate for a vote.

US chemicals producers have long sought the end to such anti-monopoly exemptions, maintaining they have led to a consolidation of power in the rail industry at the expense of “captive shippers” who are served by only one railroad.

Several regulatory hurdles exist that prevent shippers from choosing rail services even when there is more than one railroad in a community, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

Under the present exemptions, rail customers must go through an extensive hearing process to show that the rail carrier was abusing its monopoly power, according to the ACC.

The ACC and other industry groups would like to change the regulations so that shippers would not have to show that there was abuse of monopoly power.

However, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) said repeal of anti-monopoly exemptions would create a confusing set of regulations.

The Senate Commerce Committee was developing separate legislation that could subject railroads to more economic regulation by the US Surface Transportation Board (STB), the AAR said.

“We face two disparate schemes that spell nothing but confusion for the railroads and those charged with enforcing the regulations," said AAR president and CEO Edward Hamberger. "Congress should be promoting policies that help jumpstart the economy and regain consumer confidence, not overburden an industry that stands ready to get America back on track.”

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By: Brian Ford
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