DALLAS (CN) - Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport can give natural gas-powered taxi cabs head-of-the-line privileges when picking up passengers, a Texas appeals court ruled.
The Association of Taxicab Operators USA sued the airport's board over the policy enacted in 2012, claiming it was identical to the board's earlier policy that was struck down in an earlier lawsuit.
The cabbies claimed the board got around the ruling by changing its justifications for the policy, which used to be improving regional air quality, promoting an air-quality plan and "facilitating our fuel independence as a nation."
In their place, the new policy sought to reduce mobile emission sources.
Only 137 of the 2,000 taxicabs licensed to operate at the airport were powered by compressed natural-gas.
The trial court agreed with the cabbies and voided the policy. It also awarded the cabbies attorneys' fees.
On Friday, a three-judge panel with the 5th District Court of Appeals in Dallas reversed, denying the cabbies' request for declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction. It also reversed the award of attorneys' fees, remanding the issue for further consideration.
Writing for the panel, Justice Jim Moseley agreed with the board's claim that it had the authority to pass the second policy. He noted that although the airport is owned by the cities of both Dallas and Fort Worth, its joint board does not need the approval of both city councils to adopt resolutions.
"Because Dallas and Fort Worth are populous home-rule municipalities, and these two populous home-rule municipalities created the airport board, the statute gives the airport board the exclusive power to operate DFW Airport," Moseley wrote. "Therefore, the airport board is not required to obtain approval from the city councils of Dallas and Fort Worth before it makes decisions with respect to operating the airport."
The court rejected the association's claim that because "all relevant issues" were decided in the previous lawsuit, the board's appeal is barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel.
"The judgment in the first case did not bar the airport board from passing a new CNG [compressed natural gas] policy," Moseley wrote. "In fact, it denied the association's request for a permanent injunction and only declared that the first CNG policy was void as passed. It did not determine whether the airport board had the power to pass a CNG policy in the future and, if it did, on what grounds. Whether the airport board's second CNG policy was void could only have been litigated in the second case and, thus, litigation about the second CNG policy was not barred by collateral estoppel."
In 2010, the association sued the city of Dallas over an ordinance giving similar head-of-the-line privileges to natural gas-powered cabs at Dallas Love Field.
The 5th Circuit ruled for the city in June 2013, concluding that the Clean Air Act gives states and cities the authority over the use and operation of vehicles.
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