Let New York City Promote Fuel-Efficient Cabs, Public Citizen Tells U.S. Supreme Court

Dec. 10, 2010

Let New York City Promote Fuel-Efficient Cabs, Public Citizen Tells U.S. Supreme Court

‘Friend-of-Court Brief’ Urges Court to Hear Case Filed by City of New York

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court should review and overturn a lower court’s decision preventing New York City from providing incentives for taxicab companies to buy hybrid vehicles for their fleets, Public Citizen said in a friend-of-the-court brief filed late Thursday.

The city has long regulated lease rates that cab companies charge cab drivers. In 2009, the city determined that to encourage fleets to buy fuel-efficient cars, it needed to allow higher lease rates for hybrid vehicles and lower ones for conventional, less fuel-efficient automobiles.

The cab industry objected to the lower lease rate for conventional vehicles and challenged the new lease rules, arguing that they were pre-empted by a federal law, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA). The EPCA gives the federal government the power to promulgate mandatory fuel efficiency standards for automakers and pre-empts state and local laws that relate to fuel efficiency standards.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit accepted the cab industry’s arguments, and the city petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn that decision.

Public Citizen’s brief supporting the city’s request for Supreme Court review explains that the Second Circuit erred by concluding that any state or local law that relates in some way to fuel efficiency necessarily interferes with the federal government’s power to set fuel efficiency standards. As the brief explains, programs that create incentives for the purchase of hybrid vehicles are very different from the mandatory standards that are the subject of EPCA. Indeed, the federal government itself argued in the lower court that federal law did not pre-empt the city’s efforts to provide incentives for the purchase of hybrids.

The lower court’s reasoning would jeopardize hundreds of state and local laws that promote the purchase of hybrid vehicles. Far from interfering with federal laws and policies, such laws advance national policy and have been specifically encouraged by Congress and federal agencies.

“The lower court got this case badly wrong, and the result is a threat not only to the powers of state and local governments, but to the vital national interest in ending our addiction to gas-guzzling cars,” said Public Citizen attorney Scott Nelson, who wrote the brief. “The Supreme Court needs to address this issue now to avoid the far-reaching problems that the Second Circuit’s opinion threatens to create.”

As Public Citizen’s brief states, “Energy conservation and combating the environmental effects of fossil-fuel consumption are critical national priorities. Increasing the use of fuel-efficient vehicles is an essential step in pursuing those priorities. Federal fuel economy standards are one means of decreasing gasoline consumption, limiting our reliance on foreign energy sources of increasingly uncertain reliability, and reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. … Equally important, however, is encouraging vehicle buyers to select fuel-efficient vehicles from within the ‘range of vehicle choices’ … permitted by those standards. State and local efforts to provide such encouragement – such as the lease rules at issue in this case – complement the objectives of the federal standards without conflicting with them, referring to them or relying on them in any prohibited way, or, indeed, affecting the federal standards at all.”

Public Citizen’s amicus brief can be found at https://www.citizen.org/sites/default/files/new_york_v._taxicab_board_trade.pdf. More information about the case is available at https://www.citizen.org/our-work/litigation/cases/city-new-york-v-metropolitan-taxicab-board-trade. The Supreme Court is expected to decide early next year whether to hear the case.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.Dec. 10, 2010 Angela Bradbery (202) 588-7741

Let New York City Promote Fuel-Efficient Cabs, Public Citizen Tells U.S. Supreme Court

‘Friend-of-Court Brief’ Urges Court to Hear Case Filed by City of New York

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court should review and overturn a lower court’s decision preventing New York City from providing incentives for taxicab companies to buy hybrid vehicles for their fleets, Public Citizen said in a friend-of-the-court brief filed late Thursday.

The city has long regulated lease rates that cab companies charge cab drivers. In 2009, the city determined that to encourage fleets to buy fuel-efficient cars, it needed to allow higher lease rates for hybrid vehicles and lower ones for conventional, less fuel-efficient automobiles.

The cab industry objected to the lower lease rate for conventional vehicles and challenged the new lease rules, arguing that they were pre-empted by a federal law, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA). The EPCA gives the federal government the power to promulgate mandatory fuel efficiency standards for automakers and pre-empts state and local laws that relate to fuel efficiency standards.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit accepted the cab industry’s arguments, and the city petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn that decision.

Public Citizen’s brief supporting the city’s request for Supreme Court review explains that the Second Circuit erred by concluding that any state or local law that relates in some way to fuel efficiency necessarily interferes with the federal government’s power to set fuel efficiency standards. As the brief explains, programs that create incentives for the purchase of hybrid vehicles are very different from the mandatory standards that are the subject of EPCA. Indeed, the federal government itself argued in the lower court that federal law did not pre-empt the city’s efforts to provide incentives for the purchase of hybrids.

The lower court’s reasoning would jeopardize hundreds of state and local laws that promote the purchase of hybrid vehicles. Far from interfering with federal laws and policies, such laws advance national policy and have been specifically encouraged by Congress and federal agencies.

“The lower court got this case badly wrong, and the result is a threat not only to the powers of state and local governments, but to the vital national interest in ending our addiction to gas-guzzling cars,” said Public Citizen attorney Scott Nelson, who wrote the brief. “The Supreme Court needs to address this issue now to avoid the far-reaching problems that the Second Circuit’s opinion threatens to create.”

As Public Citizen’s brief states, “Energy conservation and combating the environmental effects of fossil-fuel consumption are critical national priorities. Increasing the use of fuel-efficient vehicles is an essential step in pursuing those priorities. Federal fuel economy standards are one means of decreasing gasoline consumption, limiting our reliance on foreign energy sources of increasingly uncertain reliability, and reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. … Equally important, however, is encouraging vehicle buyers to select fuel-efficient vehicles from within the ‘range of vehicle choices’ … permitted by those standards. State and local efforts to provide such encouragement – such as the lease rules at issue in this case – complement the objectives of the federal standards without conflicting with them, referring to them or relying on them in any prohibited way, or, indeed, affecting the federal standards at all.”

Public Citizen’s amicus brief can be found at https://www.citizen.org/sites/default/files/new_york_v._taxicab_board_trade.pdf. More information about the case is available at https://www.citizen.org/our-work/litigation/cases/city-new-york-v-metropolitan-taxicab-board-trade. The Supreme Court is expected to decide early next year whether to hear the case.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.