updated 6/7/2004 2:03:24 PM ET 2004-06-07T18:03:24

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that the Bush administration can skip a lengthy environmental study and open U.S. roadways to Mexican trucks as soon as it wishes.

The high court ruled against labor and environmental organizations that have long fought expansion of Mexican trucking within the borders of the United States despite a guarantee this country made when it signed the North American Free Trade Agreement more than a decade ago.

Ruling on narrow procedural issues, the Supreme Court said the president has authority to open the border, and a federal agency responsible for truck safety has no say in the matter. Thus, the agency was under no obligation to study environmental effects from opening the border, as a lower federal court had ordered.

As a practical matter, Monday’s ruling may mean little. The Bush administration had already begun the court-ordered study and is expected to complete it soon. The study could only delay, not prevent, the border opening, and the White House had already said that it would let the trucks roll as soon as it was free to do so.

President Bush ordered the opening of all U.S. roads to Mexican trucks in 2002, but the dispute has been tied up in courts.

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