Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015by Representative Michael E. Capuano
Posted on 2015-12-10
CAPUANO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I am getting sick and tired of agreeing with my colleagues. This is the way transportation issues are supposed to be: bipartisan, thoughtful, and relatively easy to pass.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to support S. 808, which reauthorizes the STB, as you have already heard. This Board has not been reauthorized since it was created by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995. That is ridiculous. It is about time we do it, and I am happy that I am here today to participate in that.
For those who don't know, the Surface Transportation Board is currently a three-member, bipartisan agency within the Department of Transportation. They have regulatory jurisdiction over the rates freight railroads charge their customers, mergers between railroad companies, new rail line construction, abandonment and conversion of existing rail lines, and other such matters.
Though an agency very few Americans know about, the STB has a profound impact on the availability and cost of goods across our Nation. This bill makes a number of commonsense reforms to the Board.
It establishes the STB as an independent entity, rather than as part of the Department of Transportation, and expands Board membership from three to five. I know that sounds like a small matter, but by doing so, it allows members to actually talk to each other without breaking certain laws of members being unable to talk for obvious open government purposes.
The bill requires the STB to streamline their processes for certain rate cases; sets rate review timelines for full, standalone cost rate challenges; and requires the STB to initiate a proceeding to develop other methods to expedite rate cases.
For the first time, the STB will be able to initiate their own investigations on different allegations. Right now, current law requires someone to bring a complaint before they can initiate a review. This is a major improvement.
The bill requires the STB to establish a voluntary and binding arbitration process to resolve rail rate and service complaints, and it requires the STB to evaluate whether current large rate case methodologies are sufficient, cost-effective, and are not unduly complex.
S. 808 is an important step forward on an important, if not widely known, issue. I urge Members to support this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.