Mexican communities to sue Pemex over environmental damage

20 May 2013 23:40  [Source: ICIS news]

MEDELLIN, Colombia (ICIS)--Residents from two communities in the south-eastern Mexican state of Tabasco are suing state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) over alleged environmental damage caused by oil spillage, an organisation offering legal support to the communities said on Monday.

According to Marisa Jacott, director of environmental NGO Fronteras Comunes, residents of Cunduacan and Huimanguillo are seeking remediation for contamination of soil and vegetation caused by defective and badly maintained pipelines owned by Pemex.

The two communities will present a joint lawsuit against the company in June.

“The first problem is the old pipelines belonging to Pemex,” Jacott said. “Maintenance work is then contracted to private companies who don’t have the expertise to do the job.”

“The problem is made worse by criminal gangs who illegally tap Pemex pipelines for oil and gas, which often cause spills,” she said.

According to Pemex’s website, the company is active in 14 of Tabasco’s 17 municipalities, and produces 556,000 bbl/day of crude and 1.36bn cubic feet/day of natural gas.

The major export terminal of Dos Bocas is situated in Tabasco, along with the Jujo-Tecominoacan oilfields and the Ciudad Pemex gas processing complex.

According to data from federal environmental protection agency PROFEPA, there are on average 20 medium to large oil spills per year in Tabasco.

“The communities are demanding that Pemex clean areas affected by oil spills, repair damaged and obsolete pipelines and carry out a comprehensive review of facilities,” said Jacott. “They are not seeking any financial compensation,” she added.

Complaints against Pemex by communities in the region stretch back four decades, Jacott said, but until recently those communities had scant possibility of remediation.

Then in April 2010, the Mexican government amended the country’s constitution to allow individuals and groups to pursue class action lawsuits.

“The new class action mechanism is certainly better, but Pemex is a big company, it’s going to be hard,” said Jacott.

Pemex declined to comment on the allegations.

By: Simon West

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