Dept. of Transportation v. Public Citizen
541 U.S. 752 (2004)

  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) planned to lift the ban on Mexican trucking companies operating in the US.
    • FMCSA issued new regulations as to safety and inspection standards.
    • FMCSA prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA), but they did not prepare and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as possibly required by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).
      • The EA focused mainly on the environmental impact from doing more inspections, not on the impact from more trucks driving the roads.
  • Public Citizen sued to stop the regulations until an EIS was prepared.
    • Public Citizen argued that the increased number of trucks on US roads was liable to have a significant environmental impact, and therefore an EIS was required.
  • The Trial Court found for FMCSA.  Public Citizen appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that although the FMCSA regulations resulted in more trucks, FMCSA did not have control over those trucks and therefore did not have to account for them in an EIS.
  • The Appellate Court reversed.  FMCSA appealed.
    • The Appellate Court found that the EA was deficient because it failed to give adequate consideration to the overall environmental impact from the Mexican trucks.
  • In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court and allowed the regulations to be approved without requiring an EIS.
    • The US Supreme Court held that the FMCSA had no control of the trucks once the regulations were passed, and would therefore be unable to act on the findings of an EIS even if it did conduct one.
      • FMCSA has no statutory authority to impose or enforce emissions controls or to establish environmental requirements unrelated to motor carrier safety.
    • The Court also found that the passage of the regulations was not sufficiently responsible for the increased pollution caused by the trucks to warrant an EIS.