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

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.”

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