March 24, 2016 4:10 PM, EDT
Surface Transportation Board Proposes to Revoke Rate Deregulation for Several Commodities
Ken James — Bloomberg News

The Surface Transportation Board has proposed to revoke its previous ruling to deregulate rates for shipping several commodities, citing changing markets for those shipments.

The commodities include crushed or broken stone, hydraulic cement and coke, iron and steel products and scrap metal.

STB set a comment date of May 27 for the proceeding and invited commenters to offer other commodities that could be excluded from regulation.

Since the rail industry was deregulated in 1980, regulators have removed a majority of rail freight from regulation, such as intermodal and boxcar shipments. Freight such as coal, grain and chemicals remains under the agency’s purview.

“The purpose of this proposal is to restore shippers’ access to the board’s regulatory oversight and processes — in particular, shippers of those commodities where evidence indicates that the competitive landscape has changed significantly enough to indicate that renewed regulation is needed,” according to the agency’s announcement.

The proposal was approved by a 2-1 margin, with support from Chairman Daniel Elliott and Vice Chairman Deb Miller.

Commissioner Ann Begeman dissented, saying the factual record used to justify the decision was more than five years old.

“For this board to take informed action now, we should first ask interested stakeholders to update the docket and then propose whatever changes are necessary,” she said. “I appreciate the board staff’s recent review of waybill rate data from 1992 through 2013, but I am not convinced that analysis sufficiently supports altering the exemption landscape.”