Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Transportation Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court denying the motion to compel arbitration brought by Uber Technologies, Inc. and Rasier, LLC (collectively, Uber) in this action brought by Patricia Sarchi, a user of Uber's ride-sharing service, and the Maine Human Rights Commission, holding that the superior court did not err.Plaintiffs brought this action against Uber for violating the Maine Human Rights Act, Me. Rev. Stat. 5, 4592(8), 4633(2), after Sarchi, who was blind, was refused a ride because of her guide dog. Uber moved to compel Sarchi to arbitrate and to dismiss or stay the action pending arbitration. The motion court denied the motion to compel, concluding that Sarchi did not become bound by the terms and conditions of Uber's user agreement. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, Sarchi was not bound by the terms. View "Sarchi v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Municipal authorities in Oklahoma fined Plaintiff BNSF Railway Company for violating its Blocked Crossing Statute—setting up a preemption challenge between the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (“ICCTA”) and the Blocked Crossing Statute. Defendants argued the Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRSA”), not the ICCTA, applied to Oklahoma’s statute and did not preempt it. The district court held that the ICCTA preempted Oklahoma’s Blocked Crossing Statute because it regulated railroad operations. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the federal district court and affirmed its decision. View "BNSF Railway v. City of Edmond, et al." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the holdings of the district court affirming the conclusions of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approving the Maine Department of Transportation's (MDOT) plan to construct a modern bridge upstream of a current, historic bridge and to tear down the historic bridge when construction is finished, holding that the agency's decision was not arbitrary or capricious.Plaintiffs brought this action challenging the FHWA's decision to approve Maine's decision, seeking to review and set aside that approval. The district court considered and rejected several of Plaintiffs' arguments. The First Circuit affirmed all of the district court's holdings except one, holding (1) Plaintiffs' challenges to the cost estimates were without merit; and (2) the matter must be remanded to the FHWA for the limited purpose of allowing the agency to justify use of a service-life analysis. View "Historic Bridge Foundation v. Buttigieg" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought review of the TSA's Mask Directives, issued in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that the TSA has no authority to issue the directives. Petitioner argued that TSA's authority under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act does not empower TSA to require face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.The DC Circuit found no merit in petitioner's claim and denied the petition for review. The court concluded that the COVID-19 global pandemic poses one of the greatest threats to the operational viability of the transportation system and the lives of those on it seen in decades. TSA, which is tasked with maintaining transportation safety and security, plainly has the authority to address such threats under both sections 114(f) and (g) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. The court stated that the Mask Directives are reasonable and permissible regulations adopted by TSA to promote safety and security in the transportation system against threats posed by COVID-19. The Mask Directives are not ultra vires, and the court deferred to the agency's interpretation of the Act. View "Corbett v. Transportation Security Administration" on Justia Law

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Belt Railway, the largest switching and terminal railroad in the U.S., has more than 250 miles of track in its main yard south of Chicago’s Midway Airport. Jointly owned by six railroads—BNSF, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific—Belt dispatches more than 8,000 cars a day. Wisconsin Central (a Canadian National subsidiary) prefers to receive Soo Line (a Canadian Pacific subsidiary) traffic at Belt’s yard; Soo prefers the Spaulding yard, 25 miles to the west. The Surface Transportation Board ruled that Wisconsin Central cannot insist that Soo deliver to Belt because a carrier’s power to designate a place where it will receive traffic is limited to line that the designating carrier owns; Wisconsin Central does not wholly own Belt.The Seventh Circuit vacated. “A rail carrier ... shall provide reasonable, proper, and equal facilities that are within its power to provide for the interchange of traffic between … its respective line and a connecting line of another rail carrier, 49 U.S.C. 10742. The Board improperly read “that are within its power to provide” as “that it owns.” A rail carrier can have the “power to provide” facilities by ownership or under a contract. The Board also erred in assuming that the statute requires the two railroads have physically intersecting lines and in making an assumption about expenses. The word “reasonable” gives the Board interpretive leeway; the phrase “that are within its power to provide” does not. View "Wisconsin Central Ltd. v. Surface Transportation Board" on Justia Law

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In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule for trailers pulled by tractors based on a statute enabling the EPA to regulate “motor vehicles.” In that same rule, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued fuel efficiency standards for trailers based on a statute enabling NHTSA to regulate “commercial medium-duty or heavy-duty on-highway vehicles.” The “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles—Phase 2.” 81 Fed. Reg. 73,478, requires trailer manufacturers to adopt some combination of fuel-saving technologies, such as side skirts and automatic tire pressure systems. Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association sought review.The D.C. Circuit vacated all portions of the rule that pertain to trailers. Trailers have no motor and art not “motor vehicles.” Nor are they “vehicles” when that term is used in the context of a vehicle’s fuel economy since motorless vehicles use no fuel. View "Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that relocation benefits provided by a railroad to its employees are exempt under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act as bona fide and necessary expenses incurred by the employee in the business of the employer, 26 U.S.C. 3231(e)(1)(iii). The court also held that, because no regulatory substantiation requirements apply, CSX is entitled to a refund. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the United States in regard to whether relocation benefits are exempt under section 3231(e)(1)(iii); reversed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment in regard to CSX's need and failure to satisfy the Accountable Plan Regulation; and remanded for the district court to calculate the amount of CSX's refund and administer the notification process. View "CSX Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (PSC) approving the application of one of Ambassador Limousine and Taxi Service (Ambassador) to transfer the common motor carrier certificate held by Classic Limousine Service, Inc. (Classic) to Ambassador, holding that there was no error.SRC Holdings, LLC, doing business as Williams Transport (Williams), appealed the PSC's order approving Ambassador's application to transfer its common motor carrier certificate to Ambassador, arguing that Classic's motor carrier certificate was nontransferable and that Ambassador's proposed use of the certificate would create new competition in the same territory that Williams serviced. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PSC's reasoning in reaching its decision was legally sound and supported by the evidence. View "SRC Holdings, LLC v. Public Service Commission of W. Va." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are commercial truck drivers who received citations for violating state vehicle safety laws. State officials reported these citations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for inclusion in the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS), 49 U.S.C. 31106(a)(3)(B). After state courts dismissed misdemeanor charges arising from the citations, the drivers asked the Administration to remove them from the MCMIS. The Administration forwarded the requests to the relevant state agencies, which declined to remove the citations. The drivers later authorized the release of their PreEmployment Screening Program (PSP) reports to prospective employers.The drivers allege harm from the inclusion of their citations in the PSP reports and sought damages under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681e. The drivers alleged that the Administration violated FCRA by not following reasonable procedures to ensure that their PSP reports were as accurate as possible, by failing to investigate the accuracy of their PSP reports upon request, and by refusing to add a statement of dispute to their PSP reports. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The Administration, in releasing MCMIS records as required by the SAFE Transportation Act, is not a “consumer reporting agency” under FCRA. View "Mowrer v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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BNSF Railway sought a declaration that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 (ICCTA) preempts Clark County, Washington’s permitting process. Clark County asserted that BNSF needed to obtain a permit for a project to upgrade an existing track and construct a second track in the Columbia River Gorge.The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of BNSF. Under the ICCTA, the Surface Transportation Board has exclusive jurisdiction over rail carriers and track construction. If an apparent conflict exists between the ICCTA and a federal statute, then the courts must strive to harmonize the two laws, giving effect to both if possible. The court rejected an argument that the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act is such a federal statute. The Gorge Act does not establish national environmental standards but provides a framework for a commission of state-appointed officials to adopt a management plan and implement it through county land use ordinances. The Columbia River Gorge Commission retains final say over the approval and enforcement of the management plan and local county ordinances; enforcement actions may be brought in state court. The Gorge Act is not comparable to federal environmental laws and nothing in the Gorge Act indicates that the local ordinances otherwise have the force and effect of federal law. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. Friends of the Columbia River Gorge" on Justia Law