STB nominee opposed by BLET, others

(The following story by Ari Natter appeared on the Traffic World website on June 9. John Tolman is Vice President & National Legislative Representative of the BLET.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. Husein Cumber, the White House's nominee to the Surface Transportation Board, "lacks the necessary regulatory and economic experience" for the job, says a coalition of rail customers who are opposing his nomination.

"The STB already has a long history of one-sided decisions in favor of the railroads," said Bob Szabo, executive director of Consumers United for Rail Equity. "It's time for the appointment of someone who understands the challenges and struggles faced by rail customers."

Cumber, 33, the Department of Transportation's deputy chief of staff, has been at the Department of Transportation since 2005 and previously worked as a lobbyist for the Florida East Coast Railway.

He also was a leading fundraiser for Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, and the administration has vigorously defended picking Cumber to replace W. Douglas Buttrey, whose term expires Dec. 31.

"It's unfortunate that some would seek to criticize someone who has been working tirelessly to improve that nation's transportation system over the last two years," said Brian Turmail, a Department of Transportation spokesman.

Cumber has a "proven track record" in the department's reduction in rail fatalities and accidents, and played a part in helping oversee the DOT's response after the I-35W bridge collapse last August, Turmail said.

Still, opposition to Cumber's nomination continues to roll in.

"Mr. Cumber may be a terrific individual but I sincerely think the president in '09 should be the one to make all those major appointments that could definitely play into the livelihood of labor, railroads and shippers," said John Tolman, vice president and national legislative representative for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

Cumber's appointment would likely keep the three-member STB under Republican control, but he first must be confirmed in the Senate.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., chair of the Senate commerce committee's subcommittee on surface transportation and merchant marine infrastructure, safety and security, is said to still be reviewing Cumber's nomination.

Monday, June 9, 2008

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