The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the Bush Administration was obligated to conduct an environmental impact study before allowing Mexican trucks and buses from entering the U.S. under the NAFTA agreement. Until that study is completed, or the high court rules otherwise, the border will remain closed as far as NAFTA is concerned.
The Administration was ordered by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to conduct the study after it ruled that DOT had not complied with environmental laws requiring such a study. “… we conclude that the Department of Transportation acted without regard to well established environmental laws…” the court stated. The court said that that Administration must study the impact of increased air emissions on near border cities like Houston, San Diego and Los Angeles which are struggling to comply with the Clean Air Act.
The Bush administration argued that requiring such a study impinged on the president’s right to deal with foreign governments. "The court of appeals misapplied the nation's environmental laws and constrained the president's discretion to conduct foreign affairs," DOT’s Solicitor General Theodore Olson wrote.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has already begun to comply with the 9th Circuit’s order by awarding a $1.8 million contract to ICF Consulting in Fairfax, Virginia. The company is slated to prepare a full environmental impact statement, analyzing the short and long term implications of Mexican trucks and buses operating in the United States. The report will take between 12 and 18 months, according to FMCSA officials.