In 2018 the New General Law for Sustainable Forest Development entered into force, introducing new legal definitions with regard to the forestry regulatory framework. In April 2020 a seemingly small yet quite relevant amendment to the law was published in the Federal Official Gazette, making various adjustments to the legal definitions set out in Article 7 of the law.
Given the current situation brought about by COVID-19 and the subsequent suspension of private and governmental activities, the National Waters Commission (CONAGUA) has been reconsidering its online procedures system, which was initially published in the Federal Official Gazette on 1 October 2018 but was not implemented until late 2019. CONAGUA's ultimate goal in this respect is the complete substitution of traditional in-person-initiated procedures with their digital counterparts.
The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the National Ecology and Climate Chance Institute are continuing to help Mexico achieve its climate-change-related air emissions goals through data analysis, policy management and the implementation of the emissions trading system pilot programme. As such, now is an ideal time for actors in industry and service sectors to evaluate their air emissions obligations. Further, additional obligations may apply to certain facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In October 2019 the General Circular Economy Law initiative was presented to the Senate for discussion and approval. The initiative was prepared in response to Mexico's increasing waste generation and aims to coordinate the attempts of the municipal, state and federal authorities to address this problem. As such, the initiative proposes granting several new powers to each level of government in order to foster the creation of a circular economy in Mexico.
The preliminary bases for Mexico's emissions trading system (ETS) pilot programme were recently published in the Federal Official Gazette. The ETS is one strategy adopted by Mexico to meet its goals under the Paris Agreement. The pilot programme will determine whether the ETS is a viable scheme for reducing Mexico's greenhouse gas emissions. Companies should follow the results closely, as these will be paramount in determining the characteristics of the operational phase.
The production of single-use plastics has increased exponentially in recent decades and in Mexico the volume of single-use plastic waste now exceeds the country's recycling capabilities. In response to growing concern over the effects that plastic waste may have on the environment, a series of legislative changes have recently been implemented. Companies should keep track of any waste-related initiatives introduced at the state and federal levels and prepare for upcoming changes to their obligations.
The National Agency for Industrial Safety and the Protection of the Environment in the Hydrocarbons Sector recently published NOM-001-ASEA-2019 (NOM-001) in the Federal Official Gazette. NOM-001's main aims are to establish criteria to classify the special types of waste produced in the hydrocarbons sector and establish which of these must be subject to a management plan, as well as determine the contents of special management and hazardous waste management plans.
In view of recent policy changes relating to hydrocarbons and gasoline distribution via pipelines, liability for the remediation of soil and water contamination derived from hydrocarbon spills and leaks at storage terminals and pipelines has become a hot topic. These policy changes have largely been aimed at tackling criminal activities that have contributed to soil and water contamination, such as fuel and hydrocarbon theft.
President Elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador has already published his environmental agenda, which sets out the objectives to be met and the strategies to be implemented during his six-year term. Under the agenda, a number of regulatory changes regarding air emissions, environmental impact assessments and coastal and marine zones will be introduced. In addition, Mexico will keep working towards its goals under the Paris Agreement and its administrative offices will undergo significant changes.
In recent years, Mexico has seen the significant deterioration of its forest resources, making it one of the 10 worst countries in terms of deforestation. To combat this issue, the New General Law for Sustainable Forest Development was recently published in the Federal Official Gazette. The law is an attempt to focus Mexico's forestry regulation on better management of resources, while also safeguarding human rights and social involvement.
The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources recently published a decree granting administrative benefits for the issuance of new concession titles for exploiting national waters to persons that hold a title which expired after January 1 2004. Notably, the decree allows for the issuance of new concession titles even if the zone or specific aquifer from which the original concession title was authorised to extract water is now considered a restricted or banned zone or aquifer.
The National Waters Commission recently submitted to the Federal Regulatory Betterment Commission its draft revision of the Mexican official standard which establishes the maximum permissible levels of pollutants in wastewaters discharged into national waters or properties. The draft aims to modernise the standard by including additional terms and definitions, pollutants and parameters regarding wastewater discharges into federal waters, as well as new sampling and reporting frequency obligations.
The National Agency for Industrial Safety and the Protection of the Environment in the Hydrocarbons Sector recently filed a draft emergency Mexican official standard before the Federal Regulatory Betterment Commission. The draft establishes the criteria for classifying types of special and hazardous waste derived from the hydrocarbons sector, determines which types of waste are subject to a waste management plan and details the procedures for formulating such a plan.
Following the expansion of shale oil extraction projects and the discovery of unconventional hydrocarbon deposits, the National Agency for Industrial Safety and the Protection of the Environment in the Hydrocarbons Sector recently commenced a public consultation process to enact applicable water protection guidelines. The draft guidelines provide a glimpse of the authorities' preliminary approach to shale oil projects with regard to water resources and environmental protection.
As part of its expansion of operational safety and environmental protection guidelines and administrative provisions, the National Agency for Industrial Safety and the Protection of the Environment in the Hydrocarbons Sector turned its attention to oil, gas and petrochemical pipeline transportation activities. Recently issued guidelines complement the environmental legal framework so that both environmental and personal safety are guaranteed during the lifetime of a pipeline project.
In light of its concerns regarding environmental and operational accidents arising from hydrocarbons projects, the National Agency for Industrial Safety and the Protection of the Environment in the Hydrocarbons Sector recently published the Guidelines to Carry Out the Root Cause Investigation for Incidents and Accidents. The guidelines aim to identify the root cause of an incident and determine the maintenance and preventive mechanisms that must be implemented in order to prevent such events in future.
Two important instruments were recently published which have generated a number of new environmental reporting obligations for companies involved in the hydrocarbons sector. In addition to these obligations, parties that cause an incident or spill during the execution of a project must undertake all applicable measures and actions to contain, mitigate and repair the environmental damage and contamination caused.
The Mexican hydrocarbons industry is undergoing several regulatory changes, including the introduction of new guidelines which establish insurance requirements to ensure environmental accountability. The guidelines provide specific coverage requirements depending on the type of activity conducted, which should be a step forward in effectively controlling and responding to environmental damage resulting from natural and anthropogenic causes.
In May 2016 new guidelines were published to address the significant environmental risks posed by the hydrocarbons industry and provide corresponding mitigation measures. It is hoped that the guidelines – which are binding on participants in the hydrocarbons sector – will encourage more environmentally accountable mechanisms and mitigate the types of environmental harm that the hydrocarbons industry has already caused.
Over the past few years significant progress has been made in the establishment of a national climate change framework. Most recently, the government has promoted a series of instruments and measures to meet the goals set out in the General Law for Climate Change and the commitments made at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.