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Trucks still hot topic.

California, Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin submitted an amicus brief in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court between the U.S. Department of Transportation and environmental groups.

The brief addresses the issue of whether the DOT failed to conduct necessary environmental tests prior to enacting regulations that would allow Mexican trucks to enter the U.S. as contemplated in the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

Environmental groups originally challenged the current U.S. Administration's decision to lift the moratorium on Mexican trucks entering the U.S. beyond the 20-mile border zone. The court found that federal environmental laws applied to the agency's actions and that it failed to adequately comply with the legal requirements.

"This action is not anti-free trade, anti-Nafta or anti-Mexico," California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said in a March press release. "This is about protecting our residents' health and making sure the federal government fulfills its statutory duty to help states achieve those objectives. Our children increasingly suffer from asthma. And states struggle to meet clean air mandates set by the federal government.

"All we're asking is that the Bush administration comply with the law and fully study the potential environmental damage that would be caused by allowing higher-polluting trucks to travel freely on our highways."

The states' brief makes the following main arguments:

* The president's foreign affairs powers and Nafta guidelines are not affected by meeting the mandates of the Clean Air Act and National Environmental Policy Act (Nepa). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (Fmcsa) violated the Clean Air Act by failing to analyze the air pollution effects prior to making its decision granting access to Mexican trucks.

* Fmcsa's action likely will lead to greater violations of federal air quality standards.

Fmcsa is fully capable of complying with the Clean Air Act. If it believes the mandates create an undue burden, it should make its case to Congress, not the courts.

* Fmcsa violated policy by failing to prepare an environmental impact statement on its Mexican truck rules. This statement would allow states to know the extent of the pollution problem they would have to address.
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Title Annotation:Legal ease
Author:Ranger, Edward M.
Publication:Business Mexico
Date:Apr 1, 2004
Words:358
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