Bill to compel Mexican trucks to follow U.S. emissions rules in California is now law

| 9/30/2004

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill designed to prevent older, Mexican trucks that are more likely to cause pollution from operating in California.

The new law, previously AB1009, was introduced by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills. It will require all trucks entering California – including those entering from other parts of the United States or from Mexico under NAFTA – to meet the U.S. emissions standards in effect for the truck’s model year.

The bill received final approval from the Senate Aug. 26 on a vote of 27-10; the Assembly OK’d the Senate’s amendments Aug. 28 by a vote of 56-23. Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law Sept. 29.

Environmental groups across the country – concerned that older, Mexican trucks would mean more pollution here – opposed allowing the trucks to enter the United States.

Assemblywoman Pavley’s office staff said the bill, which was written as a public health measure, was introduced in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Mexican-based trucks were limited to a slim commercial border zone beginning in 1982. But with NAFTA, signed in 1993 by the United States, Mexico and Canada, Mexican trucks and buses were supposed to be given full access to U.S. roads beginning in 2000. However, court challenges – involving an unusual combination of trucking and environmental groups – stalled the entry of Mexican trucks.

On June 7, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was not required to study the environmental impact of Mexican trucks operating within the United States – thereby paving the way for those trucks to enter the country.

Pavley said it was her understanding that the court’s decision would prevent federal officials from enforcing U.S. emissions laws on the trucks crossing the border. So she hopes to give California officials the power to step up to the plate.

An official with Pavley’s office said the bill not only targeted Mexican trucks, but any truck that enters California. Pavley chose that course of action, her office said, because it was a consistent application of the rules and was consistent with the terms of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

However, the bill will not require the out-of-state – or out-of-U.S. – trucks to follow California’s more stringent environmental regulations, Pavley said, because likely that would not stand up under the international trade agreement or other laws.

“We believe there may be a legal challenge” if the California rules were applied, she said. “But federal emissions standards - which are, I admit, not as stringent as California laws - will meet legal scrutiny.”

– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor