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Top Transportation Democrats Urge President Trump to Immediately Fill Long-Vacant Seats on the Surface Transportation Board

Jan 3, 2018
Press Release

Top Transportation Democrats Urge President Trump to Immediately Fill Long-Vacant Seats on the Surface Transportation Board

Washington, D.C. -- Today, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Michael Capuano (D-MA) sent a letter to President Donald J. Trump, strongly urging him to immediately appoint qualified individuals to fill long-vacant positions on the Surface Transportation Board (STB).

In the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015, Congress expanded the number of Board members from three to five. The STB currently consists of only two sitting members, with Acting Chairman Begeman serving in her second, five-year term and Vice Chairman Miller having just completed her first term, which expired on December 31, 2017. Three vacancies remain and the Senate has no Board nominations pending before it.

“While vacancies in the Board’s membership does not impair the right of the remaining members to exercise all of the powers of the Board, these three vacancies affect the Board’s ability to function at the capacity Congress intended. As an independent adjudicatory and regulatory agency, the STB has been a critical mediator in resolving railroad rates, service issues, and rail restructuring transactions. The agency also has the authority to conduct investigations of rail service matters that escalate to regional or national significance, such as the recent disruptions to CSX Transportation, Inc.’s (CSX) service,” the Members wrote.

The Members continue to hear from shippers who are experiencing significant service changes that disrupt business operations, including car order fulfillment, and lack of communication from CSX generally. They have also heard complaints that CSX is operating longer trains and that these trains are blocking rail crossings for extended periods of time.

A full copy of the letter can be found below.

 

 

January 3, 2018

 

President Donald J. Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write to express our concerns about the long-standing vacancies on the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and ask that you prioritize filling these vacant seats immediately.

In the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-110), Congress expanded the number of Board members from three to five. Unfortunately, the STB currently consists of only two sitting members, with Acting Chairman Begeman serving in her second, five-year term and Vice Chairman Miller having completed her first term at the end of 2017. Three vacancies remain and the Senate has no Board nominations pending before it.

While vacancies in the Board’s membership does not impair the right of the remaining members to exercise all of the powers of the Board, these three vacancies affect the Board’s ability to function at the capacity Congress intended. As an independent adjudicatory and regulatory agency, the STB has been a critical mediator in resolving railroad rates, service issues, and rail restructuring transactions. The agency also has the authority to conduct investigations of rail service matters that escalate to regional or national significance, such as the recent disruptions to CSX Transportation, Inc.’s (CSX) service.

This summer, we began hearing from shippers about drastic disruptions in service and operations of CSX’s rail system. Subsequently, we learned that CSX has laid off more than 2,200 employees since January and closed eight hump yards. In October, the STB held a public listening session to hear from shippers, unions, and short lines with regard to CSX’s recent performance issues. The STB has also requested weekly updates from CSX to review performance data.

Unfortunately, we continue to hear from shippers who are experiencing significant service changes that disrupt business operations, including car order fulfillment, and lack of communication from CSX about service changes. We have also heard complaints that CSX is operating longer trains and that these trains are blocking rail crossings for extended periods of time. On Tuesday, the STB submitted their fourth quarter 2017 report to Congress, where Acting Chairman Begeman highlighted that while some of CSX performance measures have improved, car order fulfilment and local service performance continue to lag. The STB is also continuing to hear concerns from shippers about “last mile” performance and a lack of notice regarding service changes.

CSX is the third largest Class I railroad in North America and its rail network connects to nearly 240 short line and regional railroads. With CSX serving 23 eastern states, the District of Columbia, and two Canadian Provinces, its ability to provide reliable and consistent rail service is vital to the economic health of our country. The metropolitan areas of New York; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Atlanta; and Chicago contribute nearly $3.7 trillion in gross domestic product to the U.S. economy annually and each of these cities is home to major CSX operations. Business restructuring and changes to service at CSX could continue to have drastic trickle-down effects to the companies that rely on this rail service to get their products to market, causing regional and national impacts.

We believe it is imperative for the STB to be working at full capacity in order to address CSX service issues should they continue. As a result, we request that you promptly appoint qualified individuals to fill the vacant STB positions.

Sincerely,

 

PETER DeFAZIO                                                                  MICHAEL E. CAPUANO

Ranking Member                                                                     Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials

 

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