Me and the other brave souls enduring August in D.C. have been captivated this week by the resignation of Alberto Gonzales and the unfolding drama of seeing Idaho Senator Larry Craig's political career get flushed down the toilet. Despite the clouds of languor and smog that have enveloped the city, it seems a few people from the administration are around to continue President Bush's relentless assault on the environment and our health and safety.
As part of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, big rigs from Mexico were supposed to be allowed to cross borders and operate without restrictions in the U.S. (with U.S. trucks being afforded the same privileges in Mexico). Right now Mexican trucks are allowed only within a 25-mile border zone. The Sierra Club has long opposed giving Mexican trucks free rein over our highways because of lax environmental requirements, spotty safety standards and inspections, and little to no guarantee that the foreign operators are properly trained or screened for drug use.
Apparently the Bush administration decided that Americans heading out on the already jam-packed (and crumbling) highways this Labor Day weekend needed some more company on the road in the form pollution-spewing, poorly maintained big rigs from Mexico whose drivers may or may not be properly trained or supervised. The Department of Transportation wants to move forward with the pilot program for 100 Mexican operators and an unlimited number of their trucks -- starting Saturday. Oh, and this is in spite of Mexico's continuing refusal to let U.S. trucks anywhere into Mexico, including the border zone -- as mandated by NAFTA, and the fact that the proposed program fails to meet several key elements mandated by Congress earlier this year.
The courts are the Sierra Club's least favorite venue for action, but we decided that it was too risky to our environment and your health and safety to let the Bush administration proceed. Yesterday we joined forces with the Teamsters Union (how's that for strange bedfellows?) and Public Citizen to request an emergency stay to stop the pilot program.
Fingers-crossed or this weekend may start to resemble that oft-overlooked piece of cinema, Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive.
RAW is the Sierra Club's weekly e-mail update in which our team of Sierra Club correspondents bring you humorous insights about environmental stories you won't want to believe.