Last month, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear New York City's appeal of a lower court ruling striking down fuel efficiency requirements for New York City taxis. Under the proposed rules, taxis were required to get at least 30 MPG by 2009 with the goal of making the entire fleet hybrid by 2012. With the Supreme Court declining to hear the case, those rules are now unenforceable. However, because this ruling dealt with statutory interpretation all that is required to allow New York and other cities to require greater fuel efficiency from taxis is a simple act of Congress.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (Manhattan and Brooklyn) have introduced legislation allowing New York and other cities to require greater fuel efficiency from their taxi fleets. The legislation faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and in fact is likely to head for defeat. As Representative Nadler said at this morning's city hall press conference:
On one hand, he said, there was an openness for expanding "state's rights" among the new freshman Republicans. On the other hand, Nadler said Republicans "have shown themselves to be rather sensitive to lobbyists" and "interest groups, and that tends to be against the bill."
Sen. Gillibrand and Rep. Nadler also issued a joint press release announcing their introduction of the 'Green Taxis Act of 2011'.
By creating fuel-efficient taxi fleets, we can improve air quality and lower carbon emissions while reducing our consumption of foreign oil. It’s time to update antiquated federal rules and allow cities to take a major step forward towards a cleaner and safer nation. [Sen. Gillibrand]
When it comes to reducing carbon emissions in our cities and improving the quality of our air, we need to do more to embrace forward-looking environmental policies... The Green Taxis Act will go a great distance toward making our air cleaner, making taxis more energy efficient, and advancing a more sustainable future. [Rep. Nadler]TLC Commissioner David Yassky pointed out the absurdity of the current situation where New York and other cities are not allowed to take action to reduce pollution:
It is the height of irony that a law created over three decades ago to help clean our air has prevented us from doing just that.Some facts about the effect passage of the Green Taxis Act would have (from Gillibrand-Nadler press release):
- Local governments would be authorized to set fuel efficiency and standards for taxis
- Average NYC taxi travels 80,000 miles per year as opposed to average car, which travels 15,000 miles (and average car in NYC, where most people do not even own cars, probably travels even less, although I base this on my experience as one of those that does drive in NYC)
- Replacing current fuel efficient cabs with more fuel efficient ones would be the equivalent of removing 35,000 cars from the road
- The current non-fuel efficient taxi releases 71% more nitrogen oxide and 89% more hydrocarbons than their fuel efficient cousins
This is good legislation, and one that even Republicans should be able to support because it theoretically comports with their ideas of "states' rights," although of course they presumably won't. I'm not exactly holding my breath to see Republicans come forward in support of this. You can write your member of Congress urging them to support the Green Taxis Act of 2011 by clicking here. You can write your senators by clicking here (sorted by state).
As for me, I'm proud to say that Kirsten Gillibrand is my junior senator and Jerrold Nadler is my congressman.