Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
by
The DC Circuit denied a petition for review of the Department's determination that Hagerstown Airport was not eligible for federally subsidized air service because it did not meet the statutory "enplanement" requirement. In this case, petitioners argue that it was arbitrary and capricious for the Department to refuse to grant the airport a waiver as it had done four times previously. After determining that the Department's decision was subject to judicial review, the court deferred to the Department's decision not to waive the airport's failure to meet the enplanement requirement. The court was unconvinced by petitioners' contention that the Department acted arbitrarily because it had been so forgiving in the past. The court explained that the Department was entitled to credit Hagerstown's explanations and predictions less after another year of noncompliance. The court also concluded that the Department's view -- that Hagerstown's history of noncompliance and its location are superior predictors of future enplanement numbers -- is reasonable and therefore is entitled to deference. Finally, it was reasonable for the Department to rely on certain factors to distinguish another community from Hagerstown. View "Board of County Commissioners of Washington County v. United States Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

by
The county sought to revoke two exemptions the Board granted with respect to a freight rail easement over the county's property, alleging that both notices misrepresented the easement's ownership. The Board denied the petitions because only a court competent in property, contract, and bankruptcy law could determine whether the notices' representations were in fact false. The DC Circuit dismissed the county's first petition for review as incurably premature and dismissed the second petition with respect to its material-error challenge to the Board's reconsideration order. The court held that it has jurisdiction to review the Board's initial order pursuant to the county's second petition, and that the Board's denial of the petitions to revoke was arbitrary and capricious for failing to address the claim that the notices, whether or not ultimately false, misleadingly omitted material information. Accordingly, the court granted the second petition for review insofar as it challenges the Board's initial order, vacated that order, and remanded the case to the Board for further proceedings. View "Snohomish County v. Surface Transportation Board" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit denied Union Pacific's petition for review of the Administration's regulation governing disclosures made by railroads that are transporting hazardous materials. Union Pacific alleged that the regulation was insufficiently protecting the railroad's data and thus failed to meet the requirement in section 7302 of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST) to establish security and confidentiality protections to prevent access to the information by unauthorized parties. The court held that FAST 7302 is neither dependent on a misreading of the statute nor arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the agency developed a mechanism to prevent inadvertent disclosure. Furthermore, Union Pacific failed to provide evidence to controvert the agency's express finding that this rule will satisfy security and confidentiality concerns as mandated by the statute. View "Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit denied a petition for review of the TSA's order stating that it would neither confirm or deny any information about petitioner which may be within federal watchlists or reveal any law enforcement sensitive information. The court held that the petition was filed after the statutory deadline pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 46110, and there were no reasonable grounds justifying her untimely filing. In this case, petitioner had no good excuse, much less reasonable grounds, for her failure to file a petition for review not later than 60 days after TSA issued the disputed order. View "Matar v. TSA" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner, a commercial pilot, filed a petition for review challenging the TSA's Known Crewmember Program. Petitioner claimed that TSA lacked statutory authority to select and screen airline crewmembers in the same manner as passengers. The DC Circuit held that petitioner had standing to challenge TSA's policies and assumed, without deciding, that his petition for review was timely. On the merits, the court held that TSA has broad statutory authority to protect civil aviation security and the agency's reasoned decisionmaking should be accorded deference. In this case, TSA has reasonably concluded that a random-screening regime is required to protect airline travelers from the unique threat posed by insiders with privileged access to airport sterile areas. Furthermore, petitioner failed to demonstrate any persuasive evidence that TSA's policies were unauthorized or otherwise impermissible. Therefore, the court denied the petition for review. View "Bonacci v. TSA" on Justia Law

by
In 2016, the Department of Transportation issued a rule requiring airlines to report the number of wheelchairs and scooters that are mishandled after being transported as checked luggage on passenger flights. The “Reporting Rule” was scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2018. In March 2017, DOT issued an “Extension Rule” that delayed the Reporting Rule's effective date by one year. More than four months after the issuance of the Extension Rule, Paralyzed Veterans filed suit, challenging the Extension Rule as procedurally infirm because it was issued without notice-and-comment procedures and as arbitrary and capricious. DOT argued only that the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. The court agreed and transferred the case to the D.C. Circuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1631. The D.C. Circuit dismissed. Under 49 U.S.C. 46110(a), petitions for review of specified orders issued by the Secretary of Transportation must be filed in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit or in the court of appeals for the circuit in which the petitioner resides or has its principal place of business. The court also noted that the claim was filed after the 60-day statutory deadline and there are no “reasonable grounds” justifying the untimely filing. View "Paralyzed Veterans of America v. United States Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit previously ruled that the Due Process Clause does not allow Amtrak to use an arbitration process to impose its preferred metrics and standards on its competitors, notwithstanding their opposition and that of the Federal Railroad Administration. In this case, the court held that severing the arbitration provision in Section 207(d) of the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act was the proper remedy. The court reasoned that, without an arbitrator's stamp of approval, Amtrak could not unilaterally impose its metrics and standards on objecting freight railroads; no rule would go into effect without the approval and permission of a neutral federal agency; and that brought the process of formulating metrics and standards back into the constitutional fold. View "Association of American Railroads v. DOT" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit granted a petition for review of the differential treatment by Galveston Port to petitioners, who operate shuttle buses, as compared to taxis and limos. The court held that the FMC's decision accepting that shuttle buses were treated differently than taxis and limos was not sustainable. In this case, petitioners were plainly injured when they were charged more than the other commercial passenger vehicles and the FMC never determined whether the Port justified the differential treatment based on legitimate transportation factors. The court vacated FMC's orders and remanded for further proceedings. View "Santa Fe Discount Cruise Parking v. FMC" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit upheld the Department's final rule defining e-cigarette use as "smoking" for purposes of airplane travel under 49 U.S.C. 41706. The Department rested its authority for the regulation on two sections authorizing past aircraft smoking regulations, 49 U.S.C. 41706 (prohibition on "smoking" on scheduled passenger flights within, to, or from the United States) and 49 U.S.C. 41702 ("air carrier shall provide safe and adequate interstate air transportation"). The court held that a "smoking prohibition" reasonably applies to products intended to enable users to inhale and exhale nicotine; the regulation was not arbitrary; the Department acknowledged petitioners' contrary evidence and explained why the regulation was still warranted; and the Department did not impermissibly rely on new studies in the final rule, but instead included new supplementary information that expands on and confirms data in the rulemaking record. Because the court upheld the regulation under section 41706, the court need not address section 41702. View "Competitive Enterprise Institute v. DOT" on Justia Law

by
Delaware petitioned for review of the Board's order determining that Senate Bill 135 was categorically preempted under 49 U.S.C. 10501(b) of the Interstate Commerce Act, as broadened in the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 (ICCTA). The DC Circuit held that SB 135 was a regulation of rail transportation under the ICCTA, and Delaware's challenges to the Board's determination that SB 135 was categorically preempted by the ICCTA were unpersuasive. In this case, SB 135 directly regulates rail transportation by prohibiting locomotives from idling in certain places at certain times, in essence requiring that at night, in residential neighborhoods, they either shut down or keep moving. The court need not decide the precise level of deference owed to the Board's preemption determination because it survived under either standard of review. View "Delaware v. STB" on Justia Law