STORY INLINE POST
In the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to talk with different people who, one would assume, are versed in environmental issues. However, a sense of frustration has forced the topic of discussion aside to address basic concepts.
In general, my interlocutors keep saying that the origin of all evils is that our laws are useless, and we must change them.
A simple and recent example has to do with the accident at the Nohoch-Alfa Platform of the Cantarell offshore production asset. In the early morning of Friday, July 7, 2023, an explosion, apparently during maintenance of the sour gas lines, caused the evacuation of more than 300 workers.
Immediately, there was talk of oil spills and, 10 days later, controversy was generated about the size of a hydrocarbon slick whose extension, according to expert researchers in remote sensing from UNAM, was greater than 400km2, while the Mexican president insisted that the extension was only 0.06km2.
What was the National Agency for Industrial Safety and Environmental Protection of the Hydrocarbon Sector (ANSIPA) doing? On the day of the accident, Ángel Carrizales, the head of an agency with identity problems, which insists on calling itself ASEA (Safety, Energy and Environment Agency), proudly announced that he had represented the head of SEMARNAT at the beginning of the dredging of the navigation channel of a port in Tamaulipas.
Five hours after the accident, the head of ASEA informed by tweet that his agency would be attentive to what PEMEX informed and that it would continue to follow the evolution of the facts.
Ten hours after the accident, the engineer graduated from the Technological Institute of Ciudad Madero, who prior to his appointment as head of ASEA was rejected five times by the Mexican Senate to hold positions in the National Hydrocarbons Commission, the Energy Regulatory Commission and the Board of Directors of PEMEX, posted again on Twitter that he was proud to receive, as a member of the Scientific Committee of ASEA and a graduate in economics, a Master's degree in History from the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of UNAM.
Almost 13 hours after the accident, Carrizales posted that he had been informed that there were two people posing as inspectors from his agency trying to extort money from an LP gas facility.
Eleven days passed before ASEA informed that the events in Nohoch-Alfa and the spill in the vicinity of the Ek-Balam fields were not related; however, it did not elaborate on the causes of the accidents, let alone the urgent measures to be applied to avoid damages.
Did it occur to anyone to review the Environmental Impact Assessment (MIA) of Nohoch-Alfa or its resolution? Perhaps the risk analysis that should have accompanied it contemplated the possibility of the occurrence of an event such as that which took place.
What about the baseline study that is supposed to describe the environmental conditions prior to the development of the project? How much is the amount of the Environmental Liability Insurance that was supposedly contracted to allow the operation of the platform? Will it be enough to pay indemnities? Who are the possible affected people that the study of Probable Maximum Loss (PML) estimated that could be affected by an accident of such dimensions? Was there even a PML study or did PEMEX contract the insurance policy as indicated in the General Administrative Provision (DACG) published on June 23, 2016? What does the Industrial Safety, Operational Safety and Environmental Protection Administration System (SASISOPA) say about the damaged platform? Was the emergency response protocol demanded by the DACG published on March 22, 2019, complied with?
For the time being, we will continue to wait for the 180 calendar days that are due for PEMEX to deliver the final Root Cause report and the question is, will it be made public, or will it be reserved on the grounds of national security?
So, I return to the initial question that gave rise to this article: Are our laws useless and should we change them?
Before throwing away all the instruments mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, perhaps we should be aware of their existence and then demand that they be made transparent.
We even need mechanisms that make the planning, elaboration, consensus, and publication of official Mexican standards more expeditious, so that ASEA stops resorting to its famous DACGs that violate the principle of participation of the regulated parties.
Being even more rigorous with my pessimistic interlocutors, we must know the regulatory framework in which we live and demand its compliance.
In this sense, in a discussion with a high-flying professor, I ventured to adduce the responsibility of our penalties to the lack of the rule of law. There can hardly be transparency if the MIAs of the projects announced in ASEA's Ecological Gazette are not available for consultation, much less their response documents.
Three years ago, when Victor Manuel Toledo was head of SEMARNAT, I defended ASEA in terms of continuing to issue resolutions. Today, when the head of ASEA has become a tour companion of the head of SEMARNAT at events of the most dissimilar and even frivolous nature as the one held on Aug. 6, 2023, when Maria Luisa Albores and Carrizales attended a ceremony to ask permission from Mother Earth for the construction of a gas station.
Can we ask them to show us the authorization from Mother Earth for the operation of the Nohoch-Alfa platform or the activities in Ek-Balam?
It is urgent that public officials understand that they are employees of the Mexican people and that they must act with professional responsibility.