WASHINGTON — The Surface Transportation Board’s final decision on the proposed Canadian Pacific-Kansas City Southern merger has been delayed and likely won’t come until late February at the earliest.
Today was the statutory deadline for the board to issue its decision on the first merger of Class I railroads in more than two decades.
But the board’s final environmental impact statement has not yet been completed. And under federal law the board can’t issue a final decision on the merger until 30 days after the environmental impact statement has been published in the Federal Register.
STB Chairman Martin J. Oberman was asked at a shipper conference today whether a decision would come soon.
“I can’t answer that question. All I can tell you is I think the merger statutory deadline … is January 19th. But like a lot in railroads, there’s another statute that tells us exactly the opposite, and that is that we cannot vote on a decision until at least 30 days after the environmental impact statement has been published in the Federal Register. So those are the legal limits and requirements,” he told the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers.
The board is working as quickly as it can, he said.
“All I can tell you is it is undergoing high-intensity work by everybody, including the board members, where we are moving as rapidly as this institution is capable of moving,” Oberman says.
An agency spokeswoman says the environmental impact statement is nearing completion.
CP Chief Marketing Officer John Brooks told an investor conference today that he was “very optimistic” that the STB would approve the merger and that CP would be in control of KCS by March 31. The expectation is that the final environmental impact statement will be completed on Feb. 3.
If the board votes to approve the merger, the decision would become effective 30 days later.
The draft environmental statement, released in August, found that the CP-KCS merger would cause few if any adverse environmental impacts aside from increased train noise in some locations.
The draft EIS also said the merger would have little effect on rail safety or emergency response times in communities that would see increased train traffic.
But the draft recommended that the railroad work with affected communities for grade crossing mitigation projects where appropriate. Also recommended: Making the railroads’ commitments on environmental matters part of any conditions the STB may impose in the event the merger is approved.
Trains Senior Editor David Lassen contributed to this report.
Note: Updated at 4:45 p.m. Central Time to include comment from CP Chief Marketing Officer John Brooks.