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Business

Rail Antitrust Bill Advances In House

by Glenn Hess
September 28, 2009 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 87, ISSUE 39

The House Judiciary Committee has approved legislation that would repeal the freight railroad industry's long-standing exemptions from federal antitrust laws. H.R. 233 would require rail companies to obtain approval from the Department of Justice for mergers, acquisitions, and collective rate-making agreements, bringing them in line with other industries in the transportation sector. Critics say that, free from government oversight, the railroad industry has undergone dramatic consolidation, which has led to unfair rate increases and unreliable service for shippers of chemicals, coal, and agricultural commodities. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a similar measure (S. 146) earlier in the year. Railroads maintain that the proposals would discourage investment in the industry and damage the public interest. J. Michael Hemmer, senior vice president and general counsel at Union Pacific Railroad, says several provisions of the legislation are designed to override regulatory policies that shippers oppose, rather than repeal antitrust exemptions.

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