Austin's worry: Mexican trucks get free pass on EPA's 2004 regs

| 12/30/2002

City officials in Austin, TX, say the addition of Mexican trucks won't add much to pollution in the short term, but could significantly worsen air quality if the government fails to regulate Mexican trucks under the Environmental Protection Agency's 2004 pollution rules, the Austin Chronicle reports.

Under EPA's 2004 rules, U.S. diesel engines must run more cleanly by being retrofitted with catalytic converters, and using extra-low sulfur diesel fuel, which is less polluting than standard diesel fuel. Under the current rules, Mexican trucks aren't required to take such emissions-reducing steps.

City Sustainability Officer Fred Blood said Austin recently moved to reduce its emissions through the addition of buses that run on electric power instead of fuel.

"I see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said, "but there's no light at the end of the tunnel regarding Mexican rigs."

Without additional federal action, he added, that tunnel could get awfully smoky.

Meanwhile, environmental, public interest and labor groups have filed an emergency injunction to roll back the Bush administration's Nov. 27 decision that could put Mexican trucks on U.S. roads by the end of the year.

A coalition led by Public Citizen, the Environmental Law Foundation and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters filed suit in federal court requesting the government to comply with the Clean Air Act and other rules. The results of that suit are still pending.

Mexican trucks are typically older than their U.S. counterparts and generate more pollution, partly because they aren't required to comply with U.S. regulations, opponents of the Bush decision say.

Moreover, according to The Los Angeles Times, "CANACAR, the largest Mexican trucking association, [reports that] only 30,000 of the 140,000 trucks it represents meet U.S. safety and environmental standards for hauling cargo north of the border." On the labor side, the Teamsters and California Trucking Association worry that cheaper Mexican hauling services threaten the jobs of American truckers.

The Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association points out that no state government - or the federal government - has the means to enforce compliance with U.S. customs or immigration laws by Mexican trucks, nor will they have the means any time soon.