Ass'n of Taxicab Operators v. City of Dall.

Decision Date28 March 2012
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 3:10–CV–769–K.
Citation866 F.Supp.2d 595
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Texas


Kelly D. Hollingsworth, Law Office of Kelly D. Hollingsworth, Jeffrey M. Travis, Travis & Calhoun, John W. Bryant, Glast Phillips & Murray PC, Dallas, TX, for Plaintiff.

Christopher J. Caso, Lemuel B. Thomas, Dallas City Attorney's Office, Victoria W. Thomas, Nichols, Jackson, Dillard, Hager & Smith, L.L.P., Dallas, TX, for Defendant.


ED KINKEADE, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Final Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 45). The Court has considered Defendant City of Dallas' (“the City”) Motion, the City's Brief in Support of its Motion for Final Summary Judgment, Plaintiff, the Association of Taxicab Operators, USA's (ATO) Response and Memorandum in Support, the City's Reply Brief, the evidence submitted by the parties, and applicable law. The City asserts that as a matter of law, Dallas City Ordinance No. 27831 (the Ordinance) is not preempted, while ATO asserts that the Ordinance is preempted by the Clean Air Act. Because no genuine issue of material fact exists as to the lack of preemption of the Ordinance by the Clean Air Act, the City's Motion for Final Summary Judgment is hereby GRANTED. Judgment will be entered by separate document. Fed.R.Civ.P. 58(a).

I. Factual Background

On March 10, 2010, the City adopted Ordinance No. 27831 (the Ordinance), with an effective date of April 10, 2010. The Ordinance amended Sections 5–58 and 5–59, and added a new Section 5–61.1, to Chapter 5 of the Dallas City Code entitled “Aircraft and Airports.” The Ordinance creates an incentive for a taxicab designated as a “dedicated compressed natural gas vehicle” (“CNG taxicab”).

A CNG taxicab is defined in the Ordinance as “a vehicle that operates exclusively on compressed natural gas.” Dallas City Code, § 5–58(9). A taxicab owner can either purchase a new vehicle that is already equipped with a compressed natural gas system or can convert an existing cab to operate on compressed natural gas. “Head of the line” privileges are issued to CNG taxicabs, which means that if a CNG taxicab has been issued an emblem by the City's Director of Aviation, and is otherwise permitted by the City, then it is entitled to advance to the front of the taxicab holding or dispatch area at Love Field (owned by the City) ahead of non CNG taxicabs who may be waiting to pick up passengers at the Airport. Dallas City Code, § 5–61.1.

The Ordinance does not apply to any property or areas located within the City outside of Love Field. At Love Field, non CNG taxicabs are free to drop off passengers without having to wait in the central holding area because the Ordinance only applies to taxicabs picking up passengers at the airport. Moreover, if a taxicab driver has made prior arrangements to pick up a passenger, the system of waiting in line at a central queue likewise does not apply.

On April 15, 2010, ATO filed its Original Verified Complaint against the City alleging the City's actions are preempted by the Clean Air Act. ATO asserts the CNG preference is a “standard relating to the control of emissions from new motor vehicles.” See Clean Air Act § 209(a), 42 U.S.C. § 7543(a). Thus, according to ATO, the City's regulation is preempted by Section 209(a) of the Clean Air Act, which states: “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.” Id.

This Court entered a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) on April 15, 2010, enjoining the City from allowing taxicabs at Love Field which utilize dedicated CNG powered engines to be given “head-of-the-line” privileges at any taxicab holding or dispatch area. A preliminary injunction hearing was then held on May 4, 2010. After determining that ATO's arguments supporting preemption failed, and ATO could not establish a likelihood of success on the merits, the Court denied ATO its request for a preliminary injunction by order dated August 30, 2010, 760 F.Supp.2d 693 (N.D.Tex.2010). ATO appealed the order to the Fifth Circuit, but the appeal was dismissed for want of prosecution, as ATO failed to timely file its brief and record excerpts. See Doc. No. 39. In August of 2011, the City filed the motion for summary judgment that is now before the Court. No new material facts have come to light since the Court issued its Preliminary Injunction Order in August of 2010.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

“Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, affidavits, and other summary judgment evidence show that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Triple Tee Golf, Inc. v. Nike, Inc., 485 F.3d 253, 261 (5th Cir.2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Triple Tee Golf, 485 F.3d at 261 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322–25, 106 S.Ct. 2548). The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show the existence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Sossamon v. Lone Star State of Tex., 560 F.3d 316, 326 (5th Cir.2009).

A dispute of a material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). “A fact is ‘material’ if its resolution in favor of one party might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law.” Sossamon, 560 F.3d at 326 (quoting Hamilton v. Segue Software, Inc., 232 F.3d 473, 477 (5th Cir.2000) (per curiam)). All evidence and reasonable inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, and all disputed facts resolved in favor of the nonmovant. See United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962); Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., Inc., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir.2005); see also Sossamon, 560 F.3d at 326.

III. AnalysisA. Introduction

The City's Motion for Summary Judgment argues that it is entitled to final summary judgment as to all of ATO's claims. ATO's Verified Complaint seeks a declaratory judgment, a permanent injunction, and impliedly seeks attorneys' fees. “The party seeking a permanent injunction must meet a four-part test. It must establish (1) success on the merits; (2) that a failure to grant the injunction will result in irreparable injury; (3) that said injury outweighs any damage that the injunction will cause the opposing party; and (4) that the injunction will not disserve the public interest.” VRC LLC v. City of Dallas, 460 F.3d 607, 611 (5th Cir.2006). Regarding declaratory relief, ATO apparently relies on 28 U.S.C. § 2201: “In a case of actual controversy within its jurisdiction ... any court of the United States, upon the filing of an appropriate pleading, may declare the rights and other legal relations of any interested party seeking such declaration, whether or not further relief is or could be sought.”

No factual discrepancies presented by the parties need be settled by the Court in order to address the City's Motion for Summary Judgment. This case rests on one issue—preemption. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment concisely states the central issue before the Court—whether “the CNG Preference is preempted by the Clean Air Act.” Thus, ATO's request for injunctive relief and declaratory judgment, and the motion now before the Court, hinge on the issue of preemption. The Court discussed preemption of the Ordinance by the Clean Air Act in detail in its Preliminary Injunction Order (Doc. No. 30). Neither party has presented any new arguments in their summary judgment briefing that would alter the Court's position on preemption. Rather, this Court's Preliminary Injunction Order is incorporated, and the Court will restate only so much of the analysis as is required to dispose of ATO's arguments on this Motion.

B. The Issue of Preemption

1. Congressional Purpose

Section 209(a) states: “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.” 42 U.S.C. § 7543(a). “In all preemption cases, and particularly in those in which Congress has legislated ... in a field which the States have traditionally occupied, we start with the assumption that the historic police powers of the States were not to be superseded by the Federal Act unless that was the clear and manifest purpose of Congress.” Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr, 518 U.S. 470, 485, 116 S.Ct. 2240, 135 L.Ed.2d 700 (1996) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In undertaking this analysis, “Congressional purpose is the ‘ultimate touchstone’ of our inquiry.” Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Reilly, 533 U.S. 525, 541, 121 S.Ct. 2404, 150 L.Ed.2d 532 (2001) (quoting Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 505 U.S. 504, 516, 112 S.Ct. 2608, 120 L.Ed.2d 407 (1992)). Plaintiff contends that no deference is due the City Ordinance, because it allegedly does not touch on the historic police powers of the State, and Section 209(a) makes clear that preemption was the clear and manifest purpose of Congress. The Court rejects this argument.

Texas state law authorizes cities such as Dallas to regulate taxicabs and the Dallas City Charter grants the City the authority to regulate vehicles for hire and also permits the City to grant franchises to those companies using its streets and roadways. Tex. Loc. Gov't Code § 215.004; see Dallas City Charter § 13; Dallas City Charter Ch. XIV. Dallas regulates the taxicab industry...

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