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U.S. court throws out air safety rule on fuel cells

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Friday threw out a federal air safety rule that prohibits passengers from carrying flammable gas-powered fuel cells, which power electronic devices, in checked luggage.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the government should re-evaluate the rule because it did not explain why fuel cells should be treated differently from other products containing flammable gas, including toiletry aerosols, that are allowed on planes.

The ruling was a win for Wilmington, Massachusetts-based Lilliputian Systems Inc, which challenged the regulation. The company makes butane-powered micro fuel cells used as a source of electricity for portable electronic devices.

Writing on behalf of a three-judge panel, Judge Judith Rogers said the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration must further explain the justification for the rule, which also applies to crew members.

The case is Lilliputian Systems Inc v. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, 13-1058.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Lisa Von Ahn)