WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Rail customers today applauded the
Senate Judiciary Committee for its passage of legislation aimed at removing
the railroads' antitrust exemptions to increase competition and fairness in
the rail industry. The Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2007 (S. 772)
was ordered reported to the full Senate by the Committee today by a
bipartisan voice vote.
"The railroads enjoy one of the broadest remaining antitrust exemptions
of any industry," said Glenn English, Chairman of CURE and CEO of the
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. "In today's consolidated
rail world, these exemptions provide cover for the railroads' unrestrained
monopoly power, unfair pricing schemes and unreliable rail service across
the board. This legislation will finally shine some light on a rail
industry that has been allowed to operate in the shadows for far too long.
We are grateful that the Senate Judiciary Committee is the first
Congressional committee since 1980 to report legislation improving the
nation's current railroad policy."
In August 2006, 17 state Attorneys General sent a joint letter to the
House and Senate Judiciary Committees asking Congress to remove the
railroad antitrust exemptions.
Since 1980, when Congress deregulated the rail industry, consolidation
and mergers have left just a handful of Class I railroads that operate as
regional monopolies. In October 2006, the General Accountability Office
issued a report citing the fact that there was insufficient competition in
the rail industry. Customers who have no competitive transportation
alternatives have seen steady increases in prices while service levels have
continued to erode. Meanwhile, the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the
regulatory body charged with overseeing the rail industry, has been
complicit, enabling-and even reinforcing-the railroad's accumulation and
exercise of monopoly power.
"The reality is that unrestrained monopoly power and an ineffective STB
have led to a lack of fairness and competition in the Rail World that would
not be tolerated under Real World circumstances," English said. "The
nation's policy must hold rail companies accountable to real world
standards of fairness and competition."
The Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2007, cosponsored by Senate
Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Herb Kohl
(D-WI) and Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), would:
-- Repeal the railroad antitrust exemptions;
-- Permit the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission
(FTC) to review mergers under antitrust law; and
-- Allow state Attorneys General and other private parties to sue for
treble damages and sue for court orders to halt anticompetitive
conduct, both of which are not currently allowable under federal law
"Today's action by the Senate Judiciary Committee is an important first
step in repairing our broken rail policies and ensuring fairness across the
board," English said. "As we continue to gather supporters from both sides
of the aisle, we are confident about the legislation's prospect on the
Senate floor and beyond."
A companion House bill (H.R. 1650) is currently pending in the House