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The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 4321-4370f, and the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 7401-7671q, do not require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ("FMCSA") to evaluate the environmental effects of cross-border operations of Mexican-domiciled motor carriers, where FMCSA's promulgation of certain regulations would allow such cross-border operations to occur. FMCSA lacks discretion to prevent these cross-border operations.
The President of the United States made clear his intention to lift a moratorium on Mexican motor carrier certification following the preparation of new regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ("FMCSA"), an agency within the petitioner Department of Transportation ("DOT"), issued a programmatic environmental assessment ("EA") for the proposed Rules concerning safety regulation of Mexican motor carriers. FMCSA did not consider any environmental impact that could be caused by the increased presence of Mexican trucks within the United States based upon lifting the moratorium. Respondent organizations petitioned for judicial review, alleging that petitioner’s Application and Safety Monitoring Rules ("Rules") violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 4321-4370f, and the Clean Air Act ("CAA"), 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 7401-7671q. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted the petitions and set aside the Rules. Certiorari was granted.
By its failure to consider the environmental effect of the increase in cross-border operations of Mexican motor carriers in its programmatic environmental assessment, did the FMCSA violate NEPA or other relevant regulations?
The Court determined that FMCSA did not violate NEPA or the relevant regulations when it did not consider the environmental effect of the increase in cross-border operations of Mexican motor carriers in its programmatic environmental assessment. Because the President, not FMCSA, could authorize or not authorize cross-border operations from Mexican motor carriers, and because FMCSA had no discretion to prevent the entry of Mexican trucks, its programmatic environmental assessment did not need to consider the environmental effects arising from the entry. According to the Court, FMCSA did not act improperly by not performing, pursuant to the CAA, a full conformity review analysis for its proposed regulations. Accordingly, the United States Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court and remanded the case for further proceedings.