The Interstate Commerce Commission has voted 4 to 3 to study some aspects of the Transportation Department's plan to sell federally owned Conrail to Norfolk Southern Corp., setting off a disturbance in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The ICC action, made public yesterday, was bitterly opposed by the Transportation Department and on Capitol Hill by Norfolk Southern. However, the limited study was requested by Rep. James J. Florio (D-N.J.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on commerce, transportation and tourism. That subcommittee is regarded as the major congressional hurdle for Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole's Conrail sales plan.
Late yesterday, Reps. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) and James T. Broyhill (R-N.C.), chairman and ranking minority member of the full committee, wrote ICC Chairman Reese H. Taylor Jr. a letter stating that "commencement of a formal proceeding by the commission would be unnecessary and counterproductive."
"It is clear," they said in their letter, "that opponents of a sale of Conrail will attempt to use the commission as a forum for confusion and delay." They pointed out that 1982 legislation specifically excluded the Conrail sale from ICC review.
Taylor, in earlier letters to Florio and Broyhill, insisted that the ICC is not undertaking a major review, but a little study of limited issues.