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AAR files brief in BNSF lawsuit against STB

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has filed an amicus brief in BNSF Railway Co.’s lawsuit against the Surface Transportation Board over its order that the Class I transport more coal for Navajo Transitional Energy Co. LLC (NTEC).

On July 26, filed its petition in the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The railroad is asking the court to set aside the STB’s order that was issued in June, which requires BNSF to transport 4.2 million tons of coal from NTEC’s Spring Creek mine in Montana to the Westshore Terminals facility in British Columbia, during 2023.

BNSF was ordered to move 23 coal trains per month starting immediately, and another six trains per month when more trainsets and crews became available.

The STB’s decision was issued in response to the NTEC’s application for an emergency order to direct BNSF to restore and maintain adequate coal transportation.

In July, BNSF asked the board for a partial stay of the decision — the part that relates to transporting additional coal once more train sets and crew become available. NTEC objected to BNSF’s request, and last month the STB denied the Class I’s partial stay.

In its amicus brief, the AAR supports BNSF’s request that the court vacate the STB’s decision. The association frequently participates in such filings when a case concerns the common carrier obligation of railroads, or the federal requirement that railroads provide “transportation or service on reasonable request.”

In its brief, the AAR argued that the STB inappropriately applied the common carrier obligation in defining “capacity,” incorrectly determined what BNSF’s capacity is, and picked “winners and losers among shippers” contrary to law.