Ricardo Medina
Director General
ADFERI Consultores Ambientales
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Insight

Monitoring, the Key to Environmental Impact Assesments

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 14:08

Environmental impact assessments are a critical aspect of energy infrastructure-related projects, with the successful completion of a project hanging in the balance. Companies need to get it right, says Ricardo Medina, Director General of ADFERI Consultores Ambientales. “Every infrastructure project has an impact on its surroundings. This is why developers need a mitigation strategy that not only complies with regulation but also leaves a positive footprint on the environment.”
The General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (LGEEPA) establishes a wide array of economic sectors and project types where environmental impact assessments are mandatory. To help companies comply with this law, ADFERI Consultores Ambientales’ services portfolio includes social impact assessments, land-use changes and energy and environmental audits. “We are certified as a verification unit by the Federal Agency of Environmental Protection (PROFEPA). In Mexico, PROFEPA evaluates all 74 certified units to ensure we comply with the authority’s requirements,” says Medina. "Apart from us, in Mexico there are 74 certified verification units. These are evaluated every year in order to comply with the authority’s requirements and provide a qualified service to their clients”.
One of ADFERI’s main advantages, Medina believes, is its multidisciplinary team that assesses projects. “Our company does not outsource human capital. We have a group of 25 specialists from different professional backgrounds: biologists, environmentalists and geographers, among others,” he says. “Individually, we provide a unique vision, but together we complement each other and depend solely on our team’s capabilities and knowledge.”
With 24 years of experience in the Mexican market, ADFERI Consultores Ambientales’ main focus remains on the renewable energy sector. Due to recent changes in the energy regulatory framework, environmental regulation has been modified as well. “Now, environmental impact assessments are regulated by ASEA, which incorporates international elements such as the Equator Principles,” says Medina. “Under this convention, socio-economic and cultural perspectives are considered, as social impacts go hand in hand with environmental assessments.”
Despite the fact that ASEA is an administrative organism decentralized from SEMARNAT, many of the ministry’s practices are still present at the agency as its human capital is mainly made up of former ministry staff. Medina says that, while the efforts made by ASEA are commendable, certain aspects still need to be tweaked. “While ASEA’s authorization process is rather seamless, follow-up measures in the project’s development still need to be improved,” he says. “The same can be said for mitigation, prevention and compensation measures across the project’s different phases. All these previous efforts to improve environmental impact assessments are limited given the lack of monitoring.”
ADFERI Consultores Ambientales is a member of the Mexican Association of Verification Units for Environmental Auditing (AMUVAA), an organization in charge of ensuring that environmental audits are carried out based on LGEEPA requirements. Medina had the opportunity to preside over this association, where he had access to relevant market information and influenced diverse decision-making processes. “One of the main objectives of AMUVAA is to raise awareness of the fact that environmental protection and conservation are linked to economic development,” he says. “Mexico is considered among the countries with the best environmental regulation, but law enforcement and compliance are lacking.” Part of AMUVAA’s mission is to standardize environmental auditing costs and services for all its members. “In theory, we all offer the same service because every unit is audited by PROFEPA on a yearly basis,” he says, “This standardization motivates a change of paradigm where clients get to know the real value of environmental consulting services and respect the current legislation.”
Environmental assessments are in constant evolution and several technologies are being implemented to reduce operational timelines, which ADFERI embraces. “ADFERI Consultores Ambientales has invested in fourth-generation drone technology, which offers a broader perspective of a project’s surroundings,” Medina says.