Issue Date: May 12, 2008
House Bill Targets Railroad Monopoly
The House Judiciary Committee has approved legislation that would eliminate most of the exemptions from U.S. antitrust laws enjoyed by freight railroads. Shippers of chemicals, agricultural products, and other bulk commodities have long complained that dramatic consolidation in the railroad industry has led to unreliable service and exorbitant rates. Four major railroads haul 90% of the nation's freight, and they determine prices. The Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act (H.R. 1650) would permit the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to review proposed mergers, and it would eliminate antitrust exemptions for collective ratemaking and coordination among railroads. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a companion measure (S. 772) in September 2007. "This legislation is long overdue and absolutely necessary to begin to end the railroad monopolies that are driving consumer prices up and service down," says Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the bill's chief House sponsor. The Association of American Railroads says enactment of the legislation would severely hamper the industry's ability to expand and would force more freight onto highways, "dramatically increasing pollution and traffic congestion."
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