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Appeals Court Rejects Effort to Create Hybrid Taxi Fleet

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The Bloomberg administration’s years-long attempt to force the city’s cab owners to switch from gas guzzlers to hybrid vehicles was rejected by a federal appeals court Tuesday morning.


The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a judge’s 2009 ruling, in a suit brought by taxi fleet owners, that the city’s rules amounted to an effort to mandate fuel economy and emissions standards, something that only the federal government is allowed to do.


If the city wants to appeal further, the next stop is the United States Supreme Court. A Law Department spokeswoman said officials were “reviewing our options.”


The city’s effort to force the changeover from the ubiquitous Ford Crown Victorias, which get 12 to 14 miles a gallon, to hybrids and other cleaner cars that get much better mileage dates to 2007, when the city issued a rule that all cabs put into service beginning October 2009 achieve at least 30 city miles per gallon.


After a federal judge blocked that rule, the city rolled out another, in March 2009, based on financial incentives. That rule allowed fleet owners to raise their lease rates to drivers by $3 per shift for hybrids and other clean cars, but forced them to drop their rates $12 per shift for Crown Victorias, creating a $15-per-shift difference between gas cars and hybrids.


The board of trade sued again, arguing that the $12-per-shift loss in income added up to cost owners around $6,000 per year for each Crown Victoria, a burden so great that it amounted to a de facto mandate to purchase a hybrid. (Fleet owners did not, however, object to being allowed to raise rates $3 per shift for hybrids. They did so immediately.)


In June 2009, the same judge, Paul A. Crotty of Federal District Court in Manhattan granted the preliminary injunction the board of trade requested, agreeing with the board of trade that the city’s rules were preempted under both the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (also known as the E.P.C.A.) and the federal Clean Air Act. A preliminary injunction is granted when a judge considers that a plaintiff’s argument is likely to succeed.


The city’s appeal to the Second Circuit sought to strike down the injunction. In court papers, the city said its new rules, rather than usurping the federal government’s authority to regulate fuel efficiency, corrected “a structural problem with the standard vehicle lease arrangement that artificially insulates fleet owners from fuel costs.”


The Second Circuit did not seem impressed. It wrote in Tuesday’s decision:


The requirement that a taxi be a hybrid in order to qualify for the upwardly adjusted lease cap does nothing more than draw a distinction between vehicles with greater or lesser fuel-efficiency.

Under the rules, the court added, “‘hybrid’ is simply a proxy for ‘greater fuel efficiency.’” As to the city’s argument that the board of trade’s case was not likely to succeed, the Second Circuit was unequivocal.


The city’s new rules, based expressly on the fuel economy of a leased vehicle, plainly fall within the scope of the E.P.C.A. preemption provision. The plaintiffs, therefore, have demonstrated a likelihood, indeed a certainty, of success on the merits.


In a statement, the city’s chief lawyer, Michael Cardozo, its corporation counsel, said:


We are very disappointed with the decision. We do not believe that Congress intended for the Clean Air Act or the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to prohibit local governments from implementing incentive programs that encourage the purchase of environmentally friendly taxis. Both laws were designed to reduce air pollution – which is exactly what moving to fuel efficient cabs would do.

Currently, 3,715 taxis in the city, or about 28 percent of the total fleet, are hybrids or other clean-air vehicles.


The board of trade, which applauded the decision, called it “an opportunity to work with the Taxi and Limousine Commission on achieving a taxi fleet that is safe, durable, affordable and fuel efficient.”




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Thank god, I'm sick of this HYBRID b.s already. And Bloombergs b.s also trying to turn nyc into 1 huge garden of some sort. he should worry more about all the goddamn potholes i have to swerve around all day in this city who's roadways and highways are falling apart. Don't get me started.

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he should worry more about all the goddamn potholes i have to swerve around all day in this city who's roadways and highways are falling apart. Don't get me started.


Exactly! Last time I drove my car up here, I got a flat tire while going to see some friends in Canarsie and boy was I pissed. It reminded me to just take the train next time. Our city has the worst roads.

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