Coal producer asks for federal investigation of CSX service failures

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A loaded CSX Transportation coal train passes an empty and another loaded coal train in a rural coal yard in West Virginia.
Chase Gunnoe
WASHINGTON — Coal producer Murray Energy has ramped up its criticism of CSX Transportation.

The nation’s largest privately owned coal mining company on Monday asked federal regulators to begin a formal proceeding to investigate CSX’s service problems. It also asked the Surface Transportation Board to hold a public hearing to address CSX’s recovery plans. And it asked the board to require CSX to disclose how those plans will improve service to the coal industry.

“These actions are necessary to address CSXT’s open refusal to devote resources to the transportation of coal, which has created a dire situation for the petitioners and many others in the coal industry,” four Murray subsidiaries and affiliates wrote in their filing, which was posted on the STB website on Tuesday. “The situation continues to worsen without relief in sight.”

Murray says CSX has failed to provide scheduled trains and crews, has delayed loaded coal trains, and failed to communicate with coal producers.

Just two weeks ago the Murray companies filed a complaint with the STB, asking it to order CSX to provide an adequate level of service. And in July, hours after CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison said “fossil fuels are dead,” Murray issued a news release announcing it had requested STB assistance to fix longstanding CSX service disruptions that worsened after Harrison took over.

In its filing yesterday, Murray claimed CSX is hostile to coal.

“CSXT’s open disregard for the coal industry is destructive not only to petitioners’ business but also to the economic and national security of the United States,” the company wrote, noting that the STB views coal transportation as a crucial link in the energy supply chain. “CSXT intends to choke off this ‘crucial’ supply chain by refusing to devote further resources to it.”

In widely publicized comments, Harrison said on CSX’s second quarter earnings call that coal’s days are numbered and, as a result, CSX would not be making capital investments in its coal-hauling network. But he said that when the last carload of coal moves in the U.S., he hopes it’s on a CSX train.

The remarks were largely in line with previous comments by CSX executives. The CSX of Tomorrow plan under former CEO Michael Ward called for diverting coal network capital investments to the high-density “Outer Triangle” linking Chicago, New Jersey, and Florida.

“CSXT disagrees with Murray Energy’s statements and will respond fully and factually to its petition to the Surface Transportation Board,” railroad spokesman Rob Doolittle says. “CSXT also will continue, as it has, to work with Murray Energy to provide rail service in accordance with CSXT’s commitment to service excellence and compliance with regulatory obligations.”

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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