EPA funds retrofits for Mexican-owned trucks through Arizona

| 4/14/2011

Sonny Brown has trucked for 30 years.

The Tennessee resident and OOIDA member spent years developing his niche hauling cars and other freight on his drop deck trailer, which he spent three years and $50,000 building.

“In today’s world, you’ve got to have an edge somewhere,” Brown said Wednesday, while driving from Atlanta to Alaska.

Brown was outraged when he learned this week that federal taxes paid by U.S. citizens and businesses are being doled out to many Mexican-owned trucking companies along the Nogales, AZ, border.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is funding emission retrofits for many Mexican-owned trucks through the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. As of this week, the program had funded between 65 and 70 retrofits, which cost between $1,200 and $1,500 per unit.

“How do I get there?” Brown said. “If I get my truck fixed for free, I’ll go.”

Mark Shaffer, a spokesman with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, told Land Line Magazine that regardless of the politics in ongoing cross-border trucking debates, U.S. residents in Nogales, AZ, and in neighboring Nogales, Mexico, are bearing the brunt of old trucks that frequently must idle.

“The bigger question here is ‘why are we doing this?’” Shaffer said. “The answer to that is air pollution is a major problem in Nogales. American citizens are suffering the most from these problems. We’ve had to get innovative creation solutions.”

Shaffer said Arizona officials also have worked with Mexican authorities to organize more frequent garbage pickups on the Mexican side to prevent trash from being burned as a heat source. Burning trash creates additional emissions problems, Shaffer said.

“We don’t want to impede commerce, but we want to protect the environment,” Shaffer said. “That’s a very, very busy and important entrance point for all of the United States.”

“We’ve gotta do something about the environment. That’s our charge,” Shaffer said.

For his part, Brown said he can’t imagine the federal government spending U.S. tax money to help businesses that compete with his trucking operation.

“This whole thing is crazy,” Brown told Land Line. “If somebody told me 10 years ago that we’d be paying for Mexican trucks, I’d have thought it was a joke. You don’t ever know.”