WEST VIRGINIA (WTRF) — In a press release Wednesday, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) stated that he led a bipartisan group of 5 Senators in urging U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chairman Martin Oberman to fill three vacant seats on the STB’s Rail Energy Transportation Advisory Committee.

These seats have been vacant for more than two years, with coal industry representatives. While coal remains the largest volume commodity on the nation’s railways, the Committee currently contains no representatives from the coal producing industry, despite their charter including three seats designated for the coal producing industry.

“As you know, many industries are experiencing continued difficulties shipping commodities due to continuing rail service issues,” the Senators said in part. “Coal remains the largest volume commodity on our nation’s railways. The lack of rail service is keeping coal from being shipped to utilities under service contracts and is even reducing the amount of mined coal. Missed trains and large delays caused by a lack of crews and irregular schedules have forced some coal mines to limit the production of coal, which ultimately results in lost jobs, despite the high demand and abundantly available resources.”

The STB’s Rail Energy Transportation Advisory Committee’s charter allows for a membership of twenty-five voting members, with three representatives from coal producers. However, the Committee currently contains no representatives from the coal producing industry and there have been no coal producer updates at Committee meetings for nearly two years. In October of this year, the Committee met with the STB and staff to provide a variety of industry updates on service issues. The STB and Committee heard from representatives of the oil, biofuel, utilities, and railroad industries, but notably absent from the meeting were any representatives of the coal production industry.

“Given the rail service experience of the coal producing industry over the past two years, we believe there would be significant interest from the coal producing industry to serve on this Committee,” the Senators continued. “As part of your continued oversight of the rail industry to ensure the railroads meet their obligations and commitments for all types of commodities, we ask that you fill the vacant coal production seats on the Committee without delay.”

Senator Manchin was joined by Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), John Barrasso (R-WY), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).