Taxpayer dollars go to retrofit Mexican trucks in an effort to curb emissions

Posted on April 11, 2011

The towns of Nogales, Ariz., left, and Nogales...

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In the big scheme of taxpayer dollars the amount to retrofit these vehicles is relatively small.  But given that as an Arizona resident I have to pay out of pocket to fix my own vehicle if it fails to meet emission standards, this government plan is absolutely ridiculous:

Hundreds of big trucks cross the U.S.-Mexican border here every day, many more than once. On a busy day, the rigs idle for long stretches of time, waiting in line at the border, spewing exhaust through often-outdated mufflers that contribute to unhealthy levels of pollution.

For air-quality regulators, the border creates a legal barrier. State and federal agencies can’t force vehicles manufactured and bought in Mexico to comply with U.S. emissions rules, even though the trucks cross into this country.

So the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality tried a different approach, offering to pay Mexican truck owners to replace old mufflers with new catalytic converters that will reduce harmful diesel emissions by up to 30 percent. The project in effect circumvents the more lax Mexican rules about exhaust systems.

Using federal grant money, the state agency installed the new converters on 55 trucks last year and will refit about the same number by the middle of this year.
The cost?  The retrofit runs around $1,600 per truck, which equates to about $176,000 total for the 110 trucks either already retrofitted or due to be completed by mid-year.   As I said before, it’s not a lot of money compared to the total amount of taxpayer dollars the government spends, but it’s the question of why we are spending it at all that matters.  Why should the American taxpayer provide the funds for Mexican trucking companies to upgrade their vehicles so they pollute less?  Do we pay American trucking companies to do the same thing?  I don’t think so, nor should we.


Instead, why can’t we require that these trucks be subject to the same emission requirements that American trucks are as part of the free trade deal?  If they wish to come across the border and drive on our roads, they can be subject to the same emission requirments and their own companies can pay the expenses associated with the upgrade.  After all, they already have to meet US imposed safety criteria to drive here, why not emission standards as well?  Why should the American taxpayer be the one picking up the tab? 

Posted in: Arizona, Mexico