Supreme Court to Rule on Mexican Trucks in U.S. Lower Bench Said Administration Violated Environmental Laws

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 16, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Supreme Court to Rule on Mexican Trucks in U.S. Lower Bench Said Administration Violated Environmental Laws


Byline: Jeffrey Sparshott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Supreme Court yesterday said it would decide whether the Bush administration can open U.S. roads to Mexican trucks without completing an extensive environmental study.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals last January ruled that the Bush administration violated federal environmental laws when it issued new rules that would allow Mexican carriers to haul cargo throughout the lower 48 states.

The administration appealed to the Supreme Court, which yesterday agreed to make a final decision.

"The court of appeals misapplied the nation's environmental laws and constrained the president's discretion to conduct foreign affairs," Theodore B. Olson, U.S. solicitor general, said in a court filing for the administration.

"The court of appeals' decision also prolongs a significant trade dispute between the United States and Mexico," Mr. Olson wrote.

The North American Free Trade Agreement since 1995 has required the United States and Mexico to begin opening their markets to each other's long-haul trucks and buses. But the Clinton administration, bowing to pressure from organized labor and some in Congress, breached the agreement, citing safety concerns.

The U.S. Transportation Department in November 2002 issued the new rules that would allow Mexican operators to begin working in the United States. But the move was stopped when consumer, labor and environmental groups sued to block Mexican trucks and buses from expanding operations outside a very narrow commercial zone along the border.

The case is not scheduled for a hearing until after February, according to the Supreme Court's public information office.

"We believe that when the Supreme Court reviews all the facts, the justices will rule that federal environmental laws require the government to determine the health impact of these trucks before - not after - they begin rolling through the American heartland," Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen's president, said in a statement. Public Citizen, the consumer rights group founded by Ralph Nader, took the lead in the court case.

The appeals court decision would require a $1.8 million study and delay by at least a year the border opening outlined by President Bush.

Mexico's government has pushed for access to the U.

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