Common Ground for “Green Taxi” and Bakken Oil

Aaron Flint posted on January 14, 2013 13:34 :: 1035 Views

Here’s an update on a story we discussed back in November, which detailed the challenges facing a “Green Taxi” in Missoula, Montana.  

After I posted the below blog post back in November, Rep. Austin Knudsen (R-Culbertson) commented by sarcastically saying that someone write a bill about that. 

Well, now Knudsen has done just that, and the Northeast Montana Republican is teaming up with a Missoula Democrat, Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) on legislation before the Montana legislature, as Keila Szpaller reports for The Missoulian

Taxi companies won’t answer to the Montana Public Service Commission if a bill being drafted in Helena ends up on the books.

Rep. Ellie Hill, a Missoula Democrat, and Rep. Austin Knudsen, a Culbertson Republican, are sponsoring legislation that, in its draft form, removes the commission’s authority over “motor carrier transportation.” If passed, the bill likely would affect a Missoula cab company’s case pending before commissioners.

On Monday, I discussed the story on our statewide radio talk show, and a caller from Kalispell raised the concern that potential legislation would hand the regulatory authority from the PSC to the Missoula City Council.  The caller was concerned that the left-leaning Missoula City Council would then pass regulations to put other cab companies out of business, and simply work to benefit a supposed “green” taxi. 

So I followed up with Knudsen.  He says the bill will be a deregulation effort. The Montana Department of Transportation would still make sure the carriers are insured and administer vehicle inspections. He says he is not sure how the Missoula City Council would be able to give perks to Green Taxi.  “For me it’s a Bakken issue,” says Knudsen. “Right now a bus company can take oil workers from Bilings (Montana) to Williston (North Dakota) without a permit, but if they take them to Bainville (Montana), they need a PSC permit.”


The Irony, Green Taxi Seeks Regulatory Relief

Oh the irony simply abounds in this story, as “Green Taxi” in Missoula is forced to beg the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) for permission to operate due to onerous regulations.   

Keila Szpaller has this story for The Missoulian, which also features a picture of the ski-rack adorned Toyota Prius used by Green Taxi:

The Missoula resident isn’t able to use that company because Green Taxi doesn’t have the authority to carry medical passengers. The Montana Public Service Commission regulates private transportation services in the state, and commissioners hold a hearing Friday on Green Taxi’s request to expand its reach into two areas.

With a nod from commissioners, Green Taxi launched its service in February 2008 after contested hearings and a successful appeal. According to the company’s application, the PSC granted it the authority to carry passengers in Missoula County with a couple of exceptions: Green Taxi can’t provide limousine service, and drivers can’t transport patients to medical appointments at health care facilities.

Green Taxi isn’t asking to offer limo rides, but it is asking the Public Service Commission to remove the prohibition on its ability to carry passengers going to “non-emergency medical and psychiatric appointments.” It’s also asking permission to travel from Missoula County “to all points and places in and between” Missoula, Flathead, Ravalli, Lake and Yellowstone counties.

Somebody ought to sit the nice folks at Green Taxi aside and say, look…you’re going about this all wrong.  Why are you asking the PSC for permission to run a business?  What do you think this is, a free country?  Go in there and use your green power like the rest of us and simply force the other cab services out of business for not being green (but please don’t say anything about gigantic empty busses driving through Montana towns with tinted windows).  While you’re at it, we could probably land you a nice subsidy out of this deal so you don’t have to drive anyone around in the first place.  I am digging the ski rack on the ride though.

On a more serious note though, the folks behind Green Taxi should be applauded for the free market environmentalist idea.  Now folks who truly want to “go green” can put their money where their mouth is instead of simply backing more mandates on the rest of us. 

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