Last week"s Supreme Court ruling allowing Mexican trucks to enter U.S. roads has invoked the ire of clean air advocates. The Court ruled that under the auspices of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S. had no right to exclude Mexican trucks—many of which are older and do not meet more stringent emissions standards—from plying American roads.
Analysts estimate that more than 30,000 Mexican trucks could enter the U.S. this summer. Meanwhile, a recent study projects that by 2010, Mexican trucks will emit twice the particulate matter and nitrogen oxides as their American counterparts. NRDC considers fine particulate matter to be the single largest environmental public health problem in the U.S. today, while nitrogen oxides contribute to smog, which aggravates asthma and emphysema.
According to Gail Ruderman Feuer, lead counsel on the case for plaintiff Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Court’s decision will increase particulate pollution and smog in southern states already suffering from poor air quality. “It also perpetuates ineffective Mexican environmental policies that jeopardize the health of that nation’s residents,” she says.
Environmentalists contend that the U.S. government should require Mexico to institute stricter emissions standards before allowing Mexican trucks onto American roads. “We support free trade, but everyone should play by the same rules that are designed to protect public health, ” adds Feuer.