CEC Requests Response from Mexico in Cozumel Case

B2B b2bgeneral at onenw.org
Fri Aug 17 00:25:15 EDT 2001

Border Briefs

CEC Requests Response from Mexico in Cozumel Case

On February 12, the North American Commission for Environmental
Cooperation (CEC) formally asked the Mexican government to respond to a
petition filed by three Mexican nongovernmental organizations. This is the
first time the CEC has accepted a citizen submission charging a government
with failing to enforce its environmental laws.

The petition asserts that the Mexican government failed to enforce two
provisions of its General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental
Protection when it gave approval for Playa Para¡so, a development project
in Cozumel that includes a cruise ship pier. Grupo de los Cien and Centro
Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental, two Mexico City-based organizations, joined
with the Cozumel-based Comit‚ para la Protecci¢n de Recursos Naturales to
charge that continued construction of the pier will damage nearby reefs
and marine life. The construction is already well under way. The NGOs'
ultimate goal is to have the construction of the Playa Para¡so project
stopped and moved elsewhere.

Playa Para¡so has also been targeted by the Mexican office of Greenpeace,
which has engaged in direct action on site. In mid-February activists
chained themselves to a crane and other machinery, postponing construction
for two days. Greenpeace International also sent a ship called the Moby
Dick to Cozumel for a brief visit to lend support.

Under articles 14 and 15 of the North American Agreement on Environmental
Cooperation (NAAEC), any person or organization may file a petition with
the secretariat of the CEC alleging that one of the NAFTA countries is
failing to effectively enforce its environmental laws. This is the first
Article 14 petition from Mexico and the first such request for information
by the CEC. Responses were not requested on the two earlier petitions
because the CEC Secretariat ruled that they failed to meet the basic
criteria set out in the environmental side accord to NAFTA.

According to rules for the Montreal-based NAFTA commission, the Mexican
government has a maximum of 60 days to respond to the petition. Betty
Ferber, a spokeswoman for Grupo de los Cien, anticipates a poor response
from the government. Officials will assert that the government has
"satisf[ied] all legal requirements" and that "the petition is erroneous"
said Ferber.

Once the government responds, CEC Executive Director Victor Lichtinger may
recommend to the CEC Council, made up of the environmental ministers from
Canada, Mexico, and the United States, that it authorize a fact-finding
investigation. If the CEC does publish a factual report documenting
failures, local NGOs could be strengthened in their efforts to persuade
governments to make corrections.

Grupo de los Cien: (5) 5-40-73-79
CEC: (514) 350-4300

Mexican Legislature To Consider Weakening Environmental Laws Five months
after SEMARNAP shocked Mexican environmentalists and others by gutting
environmental assessment regulations without warning, the national
legislature is scheduled to begin considering in March a proposed law that
would further weaken environmental laws and tighten restrictions on the
already limited public access to information.

According to an op-ed by Mary Kelly, director of the Austin- based Texas
Center for Policy Studies, "The proposal would codify the elimination of
the environmental impact assessment requirement, even for federal projects
like huge coastal tourist developments. It would turn over control of many
critical environmental matters to state and local governments, almost all
of which completely lack the financial resources and accountability
necessary to carry out effective regulation and oversight. [And it] would
strip the government of much of its enforcement authority by introducing
heavy reliance on the oxy-moronic concept of 'auto-regulación'.

"Most damaging, and in sharp contrast to the official claims of democratic
opening and renewal, the proposed new law would place even further
restrictions on citizens seeking access to environmental information or
the decisionmaking process.... [Citizens] would have to state why the
information was being requested. The agency could then deny the request
solely on the grounds that it might "prejudice" a third party," Kelly

NAFTA's environmental commission is powerless to intervene, having ruled
legislative action exempt from its examination. The post-NAFTA downward
slide continues.

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