Shippers group presses for action on STB nomination

Sean Reilly, E&E reporter
Published: Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A coalition of freight rail shippers is urging the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to move quickly on the nomination of Daniel Elliott for another term on the Surface Transportation Board (STB).

“A vacancy at the STB creates uncertainties and delays for the rail shippers that rely on the board to review rail rate and service disputes,” Dave Sauer, president of Consumers United for Rail Equity, wrote in a letter yesterday to Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and ranking member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
It is “imperative,” Sauer said, that the panel hold a hearing on Elliott’s nomination as soon as possible, followed by prompt action by the full Senate. “While the shipping crisis of last fall and winter has eased, the underlying issues remain,” he said.

Current members of the group, which bills its mission as promoting competition between freight railroads, include the American Public Power Association, the Edison Electric Institute and steelmaker Nucor Corp., according to its website.

Elliott, a former lawyer with the United Transportation Union, had served on the three-member board from 2009 until the end of December, when a holdover year on his term expired. President Obama nominated him for another term in January. Thune, who is sponsoring S. 808 to expand the number of board members to five, said soon after that Elliott would get “fair consideration” (E&E Daily, Jan. 21).
In an email, committee spokesman Frederick Hill said that staff met with Elliott in February and that the committee “is moving forward toward public action on the confirmation request.”

The STB is charged with regulating freight rail rates; Elliott had previously served as the board’s chairman. Following his departure, Vice Chairwoman Deb Miller is now acting chairwoman, while the other remaining member, Ann Begeman, is vice chairwoman.