Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Canexus v BNSF to Mediation

I have been waiting to see something on the Surface Transportation Board’s web site about the hearing that was to have been held last week in the matter of Canexus v BNSF. Readers will recall a number of posts here about the complaint that Canexus filed asking the STB to compel BNSF to provide a tariff rate for transport of chlorine from an interline point near their North Vancouver chlorine production facility to another interline point in Kansas City, MO. Today I found the reason that there was no hearing information; Canexus reversed their earlier decision and accepted the Boards offer of mediation to resolve the issue.

While it certainly makes sense for Canexus, BNSF and UP to reach a consensus settlement of the issues in this case, it will do little to resolve the central issues raised by the various parties to the dispute. Actually, it probably is not within the authority of the STB to resolve all of these issues. Ultimately it will be up to Congress to address the inherent conflicts between TIH shippers, railroads and the security and safety regulations addressing those shipments.

To review, some of those issues include:

● The right of captive shippers to get reasonably priced TIH transportation services to all of their customers;

● The need for railroads to be compensated for the costs of transporting TIH shipments, including protection against the potential liability costs associated with an accidental or deliberate catastrophic release of the contents of a TIH railcar;

● Determining which railroad is responsible for selecting the safest, most secure route for TIH shipments when multiple railroads must be involved in the shipment; and

● Resolution of the inherent conflicts between safety/security routing rules and PTC coverage requirement rules.

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