Rail customer advocacy group changes name, and approach

An old group with a new name, the Freight Rail Customer Alliance (FRCA), has replaced Consumers United for Rail Equality (CURE) as the group’s name and the group has also restructured its advocacy approach, said group member Basin Electric Power Cooperative on Sept. 11.

“The new Freight Rail Customer Alliance is a diverse and broad Washington, D.C.-based alliance for freight rail customers working together across industries to improve access to reliable rail service at competitive prices,” said FRCA President David Sauer, Dakota Gasification Co. chief operating officer and senior vice president. Dakota Gasification is a part of Basin Electric and operates a gasification plant in North Dakota that has lignite as its feedstock.

The announcement is the culmination of a year-long process to review CURE’s mission and structure. The review concluded that there is a continued need for congressional and executive branch education and advocacy on behalf of a broad range of freight rail shippers.

“With a diverse membership base and by working together, we are in a unique position to impact change and help protect freight rail shippers and their customers,” Sauer said. “Our collective voice is louder, stronger and more impactful when we represent the interests of all industries.”

FRCA, which includes large trade associations representing more than 3,500 electric utility, chemical, and agriculture companies and their consumers, supports legislation that will provide reforms at the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which oversees the nation’s railroads. Such reforms and process enhancements will allow the STB to effectively oversee the freight rail industry resulting in competitive rail service and pricing. FRCA also supports removing the current freight rail exemption from the nation’s antitrust laws.

The group was founded in 1984 by associations representing coal-burning utilities to advocate for affordable and reliable freight rail service before the U.S. Congress and the Interstate Commerce Commission, which was replaced in the 1990s by the Surface Transportation Board.

Ann Warner, managing partner of Ann Warner LLC of Alexandria, Va. will serve as FRCA’s first executive director. “FRCA will advocate for much needed reforms and process improvements at the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and common-sense economic reforms that will result in competitive freight rail service and fair prices,” Warner said in a Sept. 10 statement. “FRCA does not seek economic re-regulation of the railroads; rather it seeks service options and fair prices that are not held to anticompetitive rates or service practices.”

Warner added: “FRCA has already begun reaching out to organizations representing sectors ranging from alternative energy, chemicals, agriculture, steel, coal, forest & paper, to auto manufacturing. We will advocate for anyone dependent on freight rail who experiences a negative impact on rates or service due to a lack of competition.”

“With a diverse membership base and by working together, we are in a unique position to impact change and help protect freight rail shippers and their customers,” added Sauer. “Our collective voice is louder, stronger and more impactful when we represent the interests of all industries.”

CURE’s membership approved a restructuring plan last December that will expand the organization’s membership to increase participation by freight rail shippers in a host of industries and commodities.