The Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee has approved a bill to reform the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the federal agency charged with resolving service and rate disputes between shippers and freight railroads. The bipartisan bill (S. 808) includes a number of policy changes sought by chemical shippers, who have long complained about a lack of competition among railroads and the board’s slow pace in handling complaints. The freight rail industry has undergone “dramatic changes” since the board’s creation in 1996, says Calvin M. Dooley, CEO of the American Chemistry Council, a chemical industry trade group. “We need to update STB’s policies so the board is better equipped to deal with today’s freight rail challenges, including ongoing service problems and growing rate issues,” he says. The bill would give the board new authority to initiate investigations, not just respond to complaints. And it would streamline STB’s procedures for determining whether freight rates are reasonable.