Perk for Efficient Cab Drivers Survives Suit

     DALLAS (CN) – A federal judge upheld a city law bestowing airport perks to taxicabs powered by compressed natural gas.



     In an April 2010 lawsuit, the Association of Taxicab Operators USA took aim at Dallas emissions regulations that give head-of-the-line passenger-pickup privileges at Dallas Love Field to cabs powered by compressed natural gas. Otherwise, cabs need appointsments to beat the line.
     Claiming pre-emption by federal law, the cabbies pointed out that Section 209(a) of the Clean Air Act says “no state or any political subdivision thereof shall adopt or attempt to enforce any standard relating to the control of emissions from new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines subject to this part.” The ordinance gives the incentive to CNG-powered cabs at taxicab holding or dispatch areas at the airport.
     U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade sided with Dallas on summary judgment Wednesday.
     Texas law authorizes cities to regulate taxicabs; Dallas’ city charter authorizes the regulation of taxicabs and granting of franchises; and the Clean Air Act preserves state and local authority over the use and operations of vehicles, the decision states.
     Though the Clean Air Act authorizes local regulations to reduce vehicle emissions, and though it requires uniform manufacturing standards in new cars, Kinkeade said Congress did not intend to pre-empt.
     “Congress was careful to distinguish between state and local measures governing the use of automobiles (even outside the scope of the closely regulated taxicab industry) and measures that would regulate emissions characteristics of new vehicles in a way that would effectively mandate manufacture of a distinct type of vehicle,” the opinion states. “Congress was at pains to make clear that only the latter type of measures fall within the express statutory preemption provision.”
     There is also strong evidence of congressional intent to preserve state and local authority over the use and operation of cars, he wrote.
     “It is apparent that the congressional purpose of Section 209 was only to assure national uniformity of emissions standards by preempting enforceable standards that relate to the control of emissions for new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines,” Kinkeade wrote.
     Regulating holding and dispatch areas for taxi service furthermore does not constitute enforcement of standards under the Clean Air Act, the decision states, adding that Congress did not intend to pre-empt incentive programs.
     Kinkeade denied that the law requires taxicabs to obtain a certain type of “pollution-control device … or design feature related to the control of emissions.” Rather than requiring taxicab drivers to purchase a new taxicab or engine, the ordinance merely incentivizes with the head-of-the-line privileges.
     “The ordinance does not mandate quantitative emissions levels, establish manufacturer requirements, establish purchase requirements, mandate emissions control technology, or establish a penalty or fee system; therefore, the Ordinance is not a standard under Section 209(a) of the Clean Air Act,” Kinkeade wrote.
     The Association of Taxicab Operators USA has another lawsuit penidng in Dallas County Court, which it filed after the board of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport approved a similar policy.

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