Teamsters’ Environmental Claims against Mexican Trucking Program Fail at DC Circuit

A lawsuit brought by the Teamsters Union and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to block a US Department of Transportation pilot program allowing Mexican trucks full access to US roads was struck down Friday by the US District Court for the DC Circuit.

The two unions made a number of claims, mainly under the statute creating the pilot program, that the Court easily dispensed with in a brief ruling.  Among those claims was an argument made by the Teamsters that the program violated provisions in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requiring federal agencies to analyze the environmental impacts of their actions.

The DOT prepared the Environmental Assessment required in this case, but the Teamsters argued, nevertheless, that the agency had the discretion to mitigate environmental impacts by restricting the program and laid out several alternatives.  The agency argued, however, that it lacked the authority to enact the Teamsters’ proposed alternatives, and the Court said that that argument decided the matter.

The Teamsters’ also claimed that the DOT released its Environmental Assessment too late, citing federal regulations requiring such assessments to be released “before decisions are made and before actions are taken.”  The DOT released the Environmental Assessment after it published its final notice of intent to proceed with the program.  The Court said that that release was fine, though, because the Assessment was completed before any Mexican trucks were actually authorized to operate in the US under the program, and the Court noted that the Teamsters didn’t identify any parts of the program the DOT could have changed to reduce the program’s environmental impacts.

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