Rail Customers Make Case Against Proposed New Rate Rules

Surface Transportation Board Urged to Restrain Railroad Monopoly

Jan 31, 2007, 00:00 ET from CURE

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A diverse group of rail
 customers told the Surface Transportation Board (STB) today that proposed
 changes to the rail rate complaint process for small shipment cases make an
 already ineffective process more burdensome and costly.
     "The STB has made these latest proposed changes to the small shipment
 rate case process because their current process, as various Chairs of the
 STB have testified before Congress, is completely unworkable. The current
 process is too costly, too time consuming and too complex to provide any
 relief for rail customers. Unfortunately, these proposed changes may be the
 worst proposals yet for making the small shipment rate case process
 accessible for rail customers without access to competition," said Bob
 Szabo, Executive Director of CURE, a group representing rail customers.
     An October 2006 report by the General Accountability Office (GAO)
 highlighted the problem when it said the process is "largely inaccessible
 and rarely used." In fact, the GAO found that since the rules were passed
 in 1997, the STB has not had a rate challenge case go through the process.
     In today's hearing on "Simplified Standards for Rail Rate Cases" the
 STB heard customers explain that while the intent of the rules was to
 simplify the process of filing small rate cases against the nation's
 railroads, it would make the process worse, creating more barriers and
 further discouraging new cases from being filed.
     "Instead of clarifying and simplifying existing rules, the STB has
 created an entirely new set of rules that have the perverse -- and we hope
 unintended -- effect of making matters worse for rail customers," said
 Steve Sharp of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, a rail customer
 and member of CURE who testified at the hearing. "The very fact that the
 railroads support these new rules, while rail customers are united in
 opposition should be evidence enough that once again the STB has failed to
 propose a rule that will protect rail customers from railroad monopoly
     CURE supports changes in federal law that will both reform the policies
 of the STB -- including the cumbersome rate challenge process -- to ensure
 rail customer access to reliable transportation at reasonable cost and
 repeal the railroads' antiquated antitrust exemptions.
     CURE is a coalition of rail customers seeking changes in federal law to
 hold the railroads more accountable to the nation and their customers. The
 group represents a wide variety of rail customers including municipal and
 investor- owned utilities, rural electric co-ops, chemical, ethanol, cement
 and other manufacturers, forest and paper companies, and their customers.
 For more information visit http://www.railcure.org