Posts Tagged ‘STB membership structure’

STB Now at Five Members

January 12, 2021

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board now has its full complement of five members after Michelle Schultz took her seat on Monday.

It is the first time the Board has had five members since Congress approved a law in 2015 setting the membership at five.

Schultz, a Republican member, worked for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, most recently serving as deputy general counsel.

Before joining SEPTA, she was an associate at White and Williams, representing businesses on financial matters, and also was a judicial law clerk for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Schultz earned a Master of Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania; a Juris Doctor degree from Widener University School of Law; and a Bachelor of Arts from the Pennsylvania State University.

She is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Senate Confirms 2 STB Nominees

November 20, 2020

The U.S. Senate this week confirmed the appointments of Robert Primus and Michelle Schultz to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which brings the agency to its full authorized number of members.

The fourth and fifth members of the STB are expected to assume their posts shortly.

The STB is authorized by the 2015 Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act to have five members.

Current STB Chairman Ann Begeman’s term expires on Dec. 31 but by law she may remain in holdover status for up to 12 months.

However, she must leave the board if the president appoints and the Senate confirms her successor during 2021.

Begeman is in her second term on the STB and is seen by some Washington observers as unlikely to be renamed to the board.

Primus, a Democrat, was named to replace Democrat Deb Miller for a seat whose term expires Dec. 31, 2022.

Schultz, a Republican, will fill one of two new seats created by the 2015 law that had yet to be filled. She will serve a five-year term.

The term of Republican STB member Patrick Fuchs expires on Jan. 17, 2024 while the term of  Democrat Martin Oberman expires on Dec. 31, 2023.

The STB is expected next year to take action on a number of moves that have become bogged down due to the board being at less than full membership.

These include the method by which revenue adequacy is determined, including whether historical or replacement costs are to be used in computing a railroad’s investment base, and the method for estimating the equity portion of the railroad industry’s cost of capital.  

Also on the docket are matter of whether and how revenue-adequate railroads should be constrained in raising rates and how to simplify and make less costly the determination of reasonable rates where railroads are market-dominant.

Railway Age reported that this issue might be solved through agreement with the railroads that would avoid a post-decision judicial challenge.

The Association of American Railroads is considering proposing some manner of non-precedent-setting arbitration to decide all but major rate cases.

Other matters up for discussion and resolution include setting criteria for, and means to, providing competitive access at sole-served rail facilities; whether to eliminate paper barriers in line sale and line lease agreements that restrict short line railroads from interchanging traffic with competitors of the Class I railroad that sold or leased them the trackage; an appropriate formula for recovery of increased fuel costs; and whether previous regulatory exemptions should be withdrawn, given changed circumstances.”

Primus Nominated for STB Seat

July 23, 2020

Robert Primus had been nominated by the Trump administration to fill a Democratic seat on the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

The 49-year-old career Democratic congressional staffer is expected to be paired on the Senate floor with Republican nominee Michelle A. Schultz, whose nomination has been stalled for three years pending the naming of a Democrat to fill one of the two vacant seats on the five-member board.

Current STB members are Republican Chairman Ann D. Begeman, Republican Patrick J. Fuchs and Democrat Martin J. Oberman.

The Senate Commerce Committee will consider Primus in a hearing that observers do not expect to be controversial.

Schultz was earlier recommended by the committee for confirmation.

Begeman, who controls the STB’s docket, is expected to hold any controversial cases until the two new members are seated.

However, Begeman’s term expires on Dec. 31 although she can remain in the post for another year pending confirmation of a successor.

2 Seats on STB Likely to be Filled in Early 2020

September 20, 2019

Two open seats on the U.S. Surface Transportation Board could be filled by early 2020, Railway Age reported this week.

The Trump administration is reported to be considering naming Robert Primus as a Democratic nominee to go with Republican Michelle A. Schultz.

Schultz was nominated two years ago but her confirmation by the Senate has been stalled until a Democrat was named to fill a seat that by law must go to a member of that party.

Primus, 49, is a career congressional staffer who was recommended by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-New York).

If Primus and Schultz are nominated and confirmed, they would join current board members Republicans Ann D. Begeman and Patrick J. Fuchs, and Democrat Martin J. Oberman.

The STB regulates railroads transporting freight in interstate commerce.

Railway Age said the confirmation process for Primus and Schultz is unlikely to be completed before December.

Under current law the maximum number of STB members is five.

The seat that Primus would hold has an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2022. Schultz would fill a seat that would expire five years after her confirmation date.

Although STB members are nominated by party, the agency is independent of executive branch control.

The party controlling the White House is allowed by law to hold three of the five seats.

If nominated and confirmed, Primus would become the fifth African-American to serve among 114 regulators confirmed by the Senate to serve on the STB or its predecessor, the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Primus does not have a railroad or shipping industry but served on the staffs of two legislators well-known to the railroad community, the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) and former Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Massachusetts).

He earned an undergraduate degree in marketing from Virginia’s Hampton University, and participated in the Senior Managers in Government program at Harvard.

His grandfather and great-grandfather were employed by the Southern Railway in North Carolina.

Schultz, 44, initially was nominated 2017 and again in January 2019.

The Senate Commerce Committee endorsed her nomination in July pending the naming of a Democrat to serve on the Board.

She is deputy general counsel for commuter railroad Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

Earlier in her career, Schultz was an associate with the Philadelphia-based law firm of White and Williams, dealing with bankruptcy and commercial litigation, and a law clerk with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

She has an undergraduate degree in English from Penn State University, a master’s degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania, and a law degree from Widener University.

Railway Age said it has learned that shipper and railroad interests have told the Senate and White House that they have “no objections” to a Primus nomination.

Begeman Named Permanent STB Chair

March 21, 2018

Ann Begeman has been named the permanent chairman of the Surface Transportation Board by President Donald Trump. Begeman, 53, has been acting chairman since January 2017.

She is serving her second and final term on the STB, having been initially named as a Republican representative by President Barack Obama in 2011. Federal law allows STB members to serve in a 12-month holdover period after their initial appointment expires.

By law an STB member cannot serve more than two five-year terms. Begeman will leave the STB on Dec. 31, 2020.

Begeman is the fourth woman to serve as permanent STB chair since it became a post appointed by the president.

Before being named to the STB, Begeman spent most of her career as a legislative aide to Senate Commerce Committee Republican members, including Larry Pressler of South Dakota, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and John McCain of Arizona

A South Dakota native, Begeman was raised on a farm and has shown an understanding of how railroad mergers and line abandonments have contributed to rural America losing 70 percent of its rail competition since the 1970s.

Humboldt, South Dakota, where Begeman once lived, has lost its rail service to abandonment, leaving the three local grain elevators less competitive with those enjoying direct rail service in a state where half the grain and oil seeds move by rail, and 45 percent of the state’s 2,000 rail miles are owned and operated by BNSF.

Railway Age magazine has described Begeman as an “analytic owl, a fiercely independent thinker and certainly no milquetoast.”

The magazine said she has displayed “a prickly attitude toward an agency culture that seeks to preserve the status quo to maximize chances of prevailing when its decisions are challenged before appellate courts.

Yet her background in rural America has also played a role in her thinking. “Ann becomes most interesting when her heart and head go in different directions,” said an attorney for captive shippers to Railway Age.

The chair of the STB controls the agency’s docket, deciding when to move cases forward, which staff to assign to which aspects of cases, and the timing of draft decisions that will be circulated to other STB members for a vote.

Since last September Begemen and Deb Miller, a Democrat, have been the only members of the STB. The agency is authorized to have five members.

Trump has nominated two Republicans to the Board, including Patrick J. Fuchs, currently a senior staff member of the Commerce Committee; and Michelle A. Schultz, associate general counsel for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. They are awaiting Senate confirmation.

By law no more than three STB members can be from the same political party.

Another Democrat or political independent is expected to be named, although no timeline for that has been set.

The second Democratic seat, last held by former Chairman Dan Elliott, who resigned 15 months before the expiration of his second term, might be filled by a new member.

However, there has been speculation in Washington that a Democrat will be nominated to succeed Miller, serving the statutory holdover year of her first term that expired Dec. 31, 2017.

Two Democrats could be nominated at the same time, one to succeed Miller and the second to fill Elliott’s vacant seat. Miller also could be renominated or the second Democratic seat might be left vacant into 2019.

Begeman Named Acting STB Chairman

January 26, 2017

President Trump has named Ann D. Begeman to be acting chairman of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

Ann Begeman

Ann Begeman

Begeman, a Republican and South Dakota native, is currently serving her second five-year term on the STB, having been re-nominated in December by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the Senate. That term expires on Dec. 31, 2020.

She initially joined the STB on May 2, 2011, after more than 20 years as a staff member on Capitol Hill.

A news release by the STB that announced Begeman’s appointment said that while working in Senate staff positions she played “ . . . a key role in the crafting of major transportation legislation, including the ICC [Interstate Commerce Commission] Termination Act, which created the STB.”

Among Begeman’s appointment were serving as the Republican staff director for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation under former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and as the committee’s deputy staff director and transportation policy adviser under Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona).

Begeman also served as legislative director and acting chief of staff for McCain and as a legislative assistant for former Senator Larry Pressler (R-South Dakota).

She worked as a benefits specialist for First American Bankshares. Begeman grew up in Humboldt, South Dakota, and earned a B.S. in business administration from the University of South Dakota.

Railway Age reported that Begeman does not want to be permanent chairman and will hold the acting chair title until two more STB members are appointed and confirmed by the Senate.

A 2015 reauthorization of the STB expanded the STB from three to five members. Other current STB members include Democrats Daniel R. Elliott III, the previous chairman, and Deb Miller.