Dallas compressed natural gas incentive for taxicabs is not preempted by Clean Air Act says Fifth Circuit.

Association of Taxicab Operators USA v. City of Dallas, No. 12-10470 (5th  Cir. June 13, 2013)

The Fifth Circuit rules that a Dallas city ordinance offering taxicabs certified to run on compressed natural gas (“CNG”) a “head-of-the-line” privilege at a municipally-owned airport, Love Field is not preempted by §209(a) of the Clean Air Act.

The City of Dallas passed an ordinance in March of 2010 which allowed CNG-fueled taxicabs the ability to cut-in-line and obtain passengers first, ahead of any gasoline powered cabs. The Association of Taxicab Operators, USA (“ATO”), which represents cab operators in the Dallas and Fort Worth area, sued, claiming the ordinance is preempted since it “adopt[ed] or attempt[ed] to enforce [a] standard relating to the control of emissions from new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines…”  The trial court granted the City’s summary judgment motion and ATO appealed.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit began its analysis by going through the legislative findings (whereas clauses) detailing the particular problem in the area due to emissions and the Council’s reasoning as to why the ordinance is necessary. The court noted that the ordinance was not a “command” accompanied by sanctions since nothing requires drivers to acquire or operate CNG cabs and is simply an incentive system applicable only at the airport. It is therefore not a “standard” relating to control emissions. The incentive program also does not indirectly create a “standard” since it only applies at the airport, not the rest of the City, and allows non-CNG cabs to operate at the airport, just behind CNG cabs. The trial court dismissal is affirmed.

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