On December 21st, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) announced details of the Board’s implementation of the STB Reauthorization Act of 2015. This should allow the board to more effectively carry out their duties.
Effective December 18, 2015, the Reauthorization Act changed the Board into a wholly independent federal agency. Prior to the Reauthorization Act, the Board was administratively aligned with the U.S. Department of Transportation. In his news release, Chairman Daniel Elliot III highlighted the following changes made by the Act:
- Expands the Board’s membership from three to five Board Members.
- Allows a majority of Board Members to meet in private to discuss agency matters, if no vote or official action is undertaken within such a meeting, and if a meeting summary is made publicly available no later than two business days after the event.
- If the discussion directly relates to an ongoing proceeding before the Board, the meeting summary is instead made publicly available on the date of the final Board decision. Formerly, private meetings of Board Members on agency matters were prohibited.
- Gives the Board authority to initiate investigations and requires the Board to begin a rulemaking to establish a regulation relative to such authority.
- Directs the Board to adjust its voluntary arbitration process, including increases in the maximum damage awards.
- Shortens the timelines that apply to large rate case proceedings, including limits on the time allowed for discovery and the time allowed for development of the evidentiary record.
- Directs the Comptroller General of the United States (the head of the United States General Accountability Office) to begin a study of rail transportation contract proposals containing multiple origin-to-destination movements.
- Directs Board submission of a rate case methodology report and quarterly reports on unfinished regulatory proceedings to pertinent Congressional committees.
- Requires the Board to provide an annual investigation report on actions the Board initiates on its own; quarterly reports on rate cases pending or completed; and quarterly formal and informal railroad service complaint reports.
To read the entirety of the STB Reauthorization Act of 2015, click here.