Daniel R. Elliott is expected to take his oath this week to join the three-person Surface Transportation Board and become its chairman, industry and Washington sources said.
The former top attorney for the United Transportation Union was confirmed Aug. 7 by the Senate, after a brief but sharp controversy over a union Web site statement that some senators saw as the UTU bragging about its political influence.
(See “Senate Confirms Obama's STB, DOT Nominees”)
The timing and location of his swearing-in has not been announced. The STB regulates rail economic issues including mergers and related labor protections, plus disputes between railroads and their customers over freight rates and service.
Elliott would guide the agency’s agenda and be the third vote on a board that now has a Democratic and Republican appointee.
But it is not clear how much impact Elliott can have right away, as lawmakers are working on new legislation to revamp the STB’s mandate and perhaps increase the size of its board and staff. Key senators earlier asked the STB to avoid taking some major policy decisions while that process is under way.
On March 12, President Obama designated Francis P. Mulvey, the previous single Democratic appointee, as the STB’s acting chairman. With Elliott’s arrival Mulvey, under the rules that govern the agency, would revert to a commissioner’s or regular board member’s role for his term that expires December 2012.
The other current board member, Charles D. Nottingham, is a Republican appointee who was board chairman from Aug. 14, 2006, until the mid-March changes that put Mulvey in charge and created a board vacancy. Nottingham then became vice chairman, and will retain that title through the end of this year, when the board again votes on that post. His term as commissioner ends in 2010.
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