On December 4, 2017, the Surface Transportation Board (STB or Board) issued a final decision in Docket No. EP 733, Expediting Rate Cases, which provides the following rules to expedite the process of challenging rail rates in accordance with the shortened procedural schedule for resolving these disputes adopted by Congress in the STB Reauthorization Act of 2015.
- Pre-complaint period. A Stand-Alone Cost (SAC) rate case complainant will be required to submit, at least 70 days prior to filing its complaint, a pre-filing notice that includes the rate and origin/destination pair(s) to be challenged, the commodities at issue and a motion for protective order. The final rule also revises current rules to move the mandatory mediation in SAC cases to the pre-complaint period.
- Interaction with Board staff. In both SAC cases and cases filed under simplified standards, the Board will require the appointment of a liaison to the parties within 10 business days of the filing of a complaint to improve communication between the parties and the Board and to provide the parties with a point of contact to address questions or disputes.
- Discovery. The final rule changes the Board’s existing regulations to streamline discovery in rate cases. A complainant in a SAC proceeding will be required to certify that it has served its initial discovery requests simultaneously with its complaint, and a defendant in a SAC proceeding will be required to certify that it has served its initial discovery requests simultaneously with its answer. In addition, a party filing a motion to compel in both SAC cases and cases filed under simplified standards will be required to certify that it has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the party serving discovery to settle the dispute over those terms without Board intervention.
- Evidentiary submissions. In an effort to improve and expedite the presentation of evidence in rate cases, the Board has changed itsevidentiary regulations for both SAC and simplified rate cases to:
- Allow parties to submit public versions of their evidence within three business days after the filing of the nonpublic (e.g., confidential, highly confidential) versions.
- Create a standard means to identify confidential, highly confidential and sensitive security information in their pleadings.
- Limit the length of final briefs to 30 pages, inclusive of exhibits.
The Board’s final rule becomes effective December 30, 2017.