Groups File Suit to Stop Border Opening

While the American Trucking Associations applauded President Bush’s opening the border to Mexican trucks, other groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in early December to prevent the border opening until a full environmental review is complete.

Following Bush’s Nov. 27 announcement that the United States could begin processing applications from Mexican carriers, the Environmental Law Foundation, Public Citizen and the Teamsters filed for an emergency stay from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to prevent Mexican trucks from operating beyond the commercial border zone. They argue that U.S. regulations require a complete environmental review of the Mexican trucks’ impact on air quality before proceeding.

Other petitioners in the lawsuit include the California Trucking Association, the California Federation of Labor and the AFL-CIO. The Natural Resources Council has intervened in support and California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is involved in the lawsuit as a friend of the court supporting the petitioners.

The petitioners had filed for an injunction in May against the Bush administration on allegations that officials had failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy and Clean Air Act regulations while working toward an open Mexican-U.S. border. The court had not ruled on the case, which was argued in October. The groups argue that Bush improperly took action because he did not allow the court to rule.

The lawsuit asks that federal funds not be used to process applications from Mexican trucking companies until the environmental review is complete.

As it stands, a Mexican carrier’s application to operate in the United States can be approved 10 days after being published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Bush’s modified moratorium affects only international service between the two countries. The moratorium remains on permits to Mexican carriers for providing truck or bus service between American locations.

Mexican carriers must pass a FMCSA safety audit to receive operating authority. Truck inspectors from both countries can access federal and state databases in Mexico and the United States to check drivers’ licenses.

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All Mexican trucks and buses operating in the United States must have a valid Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance inspection decal and carry American insurance.

The Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association has never supported the border opening, said director Todd Spencer. It is unclear what power American law enforcement officials have over Mexican trucks, especially if they are stopped beyond the border area, he said. “The whole emphasis has been on the border states, yet the decision opens up the entire U.S.,” Spencer said.

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