Court delays Mexican border opening.

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The Bush administration’s plan to pry open the Mexican border to more truck operations hit a big obstacle last month when a federal appeals court ruled that the Department of Transportation had to conduct various environmental reviews before allowing increased traffic by Mexican trucks. In a Jan. 16 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit determined that U.S. law requires DOT to prepare a full environmental impact statement and Clean Air Act conformity determination before it can open the U.S.-Mexican border.

In May, a coalition of Public Citizen, the Environmental Law Foundation, California Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, the Teamsters and the California Trucking Association sued to block the border opening on the grounds that DOT’s environmental assessment was inadequate. In late November, the White House DOT took several steps toward opening the border, but the 9th Circuit panel ordered the government to provide notice of further steps. (See “DOT moves to open border,” Dispatch, January 2003.)

In response to the court ruling, Celadon Group, which has substantial cross-border operations, issued updated guidance to investors, saying that its earnings would be lower than earlier projections due to the indefinite delay in the ability of Mexican-domiciled equipment to operate beyond the commercial zones. Celadon had assumed a buildup of 300 Mexican drivers by December 2003, including 100 EPA-compliance Mexican tractors now operated by Celadon’s Mexican affiliate Jaguar. Based on the court ruling, those 100 tractors will not be allowed in, so the buildup is expected to reach only 200 Mexican drivers using U.S. tractors, Celadon said.