Tester: Montanans shouldn’t pay for inflated purchase price of BNSF

Senator asks to shield shippers from higher fees following railroad acquisition

(BIG SANDY, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester says Montana farmers and ranchers who rely on the BNSF Railway to ship their commodities out of state shouldn’t get stuck with higher bills following the recent acquisition of the railroad.

Shareholders approved Berkshire Hathaway’s purchase of BNSF last year, in a deal worth about $44 billion.  But the Nebraska-based conglomerate paid approximately $7.3 billion more than BNSF’s “book value.”

So Tester and a bipartisan group of his colleagues are asking the Surface Transportation Board to make sure that BNSF does not “pass that cost on to its captive customers in the form of higher rates.”

“Allowing this and future acquisition premiums to be included in a railroad’s regulatory rate base raises a serious concern for captive rail customers,” Tester wrote to the chairman of the Surface Transportation Board, which oversees railroad commerce. “We urge you to reexamine (the board’s) accounting policies to protect shippers against such practices.”

“Montana’s farmers and ranchers don’t have many options when it comes to shipping their products to the marketplace, so we need to make sure they’re not getting the short end the stick in any situation,” Tester said.  “If big corporations are going to play Monopoly with their assets and they wind up in the red, Montanans shouldn’t get stuck holding the bag.”

Alan Merrill, president of the Montana Farmer’s Union, agreed BNSF needs to be held accountable.

“The last thing Montanans needs is to pay higher fees to make up for a high-level acquisition,” Merrill said.  “We appreciate Jon’s leadership in addressing this issue and standing up for Montana agriculture.”

Tester’s letter to the Surface Transportation Board is available online HERE.