Railroad Antitrust Exemption Bill Hits First Hurdle

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill (S. 146) recently which will repeal the railroads antitrust exemption, a move that is supported by the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA).

The “Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009” would eliminate the railroads’ antitrust exemption, allowing lawsuits by private parties to enforce antitrust laws and allow the U.S. Department of Justice to block anti-competitive mergers. Currently, only four Class 1 railroads provide over 90 percent of the nation’s freight rail transportation, according to Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), sponsor this legislation.

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA) has expressed some concern with the proposal because he feels it may lead to overregulation and excessive litigation. Specter also believes existing problems with the railroads should be addressed by the Surface Transportation Board (STB), which oversees the industry.

ARA supports efforts to provide more accountability, impartial oversight, and competitive freight rates of the railroads. S. 146 will be considered by the full Senate. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has introduced similar legislation (H.R. 233) in the House.

(Source: The Agricultural Retailers Association)

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