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December 10, 2015 4:45 PM, EST

Congress Sends White House Surface Transportation Board Reform Bill

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The House on Dec. 10 passed legislation that would expand the Surface Transportation Board’s leadership and take the agency out of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Senate-passed bill cleared the House under suspension of the rules, an expedited procedure requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. Next stop for the bill is President Obama’s desk for his signature.

"The STB plays an important role in ensuring a balanced, fair regulatory environment for both the railroads and its customers, but the agency hasn’t been reauthorized or reformed since it was created,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said. “This bill makes common-sense improvements to increase the efficiency of the agency’s processes and decision-making, and ensures that the successful U.S. freight rail transportation system is not smothered by unnecessary regulatory burdens.”

“Enacting this legislation will make the Surface Transportation Board more accountable and effective in addressing rail service and other disputes,” added Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce Committee.

Specifically, the legislation would increase the board’s membership from three to five. It also would seek to reduce litigation costs for small businesses, provide certainty to railroads and shippers in the decision-making timeline and process and expand options for service dispute resolutions.