Summary of Environmental Law in Mexico

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14 Environmental Emergencies

 

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Overview

Emergency notification and response requirements are set forth in the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (Ley del Equilibrio Ecológico y Protección al Ambiente) (hereinafter Ecology Law) and other media-specific laws and regulations relating to hazardous waste, petroleum spills, wastewater discharges, ocean dumping, air emissions and transportation. The central agency with jurisdiction over environmental emergencies and contingencies is the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT)).

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14.1 Emergency Notification and Reporting Requirements

 

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Hazardous Waste Spills

Pursuant to Article 42 of the Regulation under the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection Regarding Hazardous Waste (Reglamento de Ley General del Equilibrio Ecológico y la Protección al Ambiente en Materia de Residuos Peligrosos) (hereinafter Hazardous Waste Regulation), all generators and handlers of hazardous waste must report any spill, infiltration, discharge or dumping of hazardous wastes to SEMARNAT within three days after the accident. Notice of all hazardous waste accidents, regardless of the cause, must be filed with SEMARNAT using the official manifest form for emergency spills.

Upon receipt of an emergency notification, SEMARNAT will issue a resolution indicating the response measures that must be taken.

Petroleum Spills

Pursuant to the Petroleum Works Regulation (Reglamento de Trabajos Petroleros), all petroleum related accidents or spills in PEMEX facilities must be immediately reported to SEMARNAT whenever those spills may in any way adversely affect or pollute the environment. SEMARNAT shall then dictate those response actions deemed necessary.

Wastewater Discharge Spills

Pursuant to article 135 of the Regulation under the National Waters Law (Ley de Aguas Nacionales) (hereinafter National Water Regulation), all persons that discharge wastewater into fresh or marine waters must report any changes in the volume or characteristics of allowed discharges to the National Water Commission (Comisión Nacional del Agua (CNA)), which is part of SEMARNAT. Although this provision does not specifically regulate accidents, a non-permitted spill would probably be governed by it. All accidental spills of waste, petroleum, wastewater or other substances into oceans are under the jurisdiction of SEMARNAT, in coordination with the Secretariat of Communications and Transport (Secretaría de Comunicación y Transportes (SCT)) and the Secretariat of the Navy (Secretaría de Marina (SM)).

Ocean Dumping

Article 24 of the Regulation Regarding the Prevention and Control of Ocean Pollution and Waste Dumping (Reglamento para la Prevención y Control de la Contaminación del Océano y Vertimiento de Desperdicios) requires that all emergency ocean dumping by vessels be immediately reported to the Secretariat of the Navy.

Air Emissions

Article 17 of the Regulation under the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection Regarding the Prevention and Control of Contamination in the Atmosphere (Reglamento de la Ley General del Equilibrio Ecológico y la Protección al Ambiente en Materia de Prevención y Control de la Contaminación de la Atmósfera), requires that any breakdown of equipment used for the control of air emissions from fixed sources be immediately reported to SEMARNAT which will determine whether such breakdown generated air pollution and whether any response action is necessary.

Transportation

Accidents that occur during the transportation of hazardous materials and wastes fall under the concurrent jurisdiction of SCT and SEMARNAT. Under the Regulation Regarding the Land Transport of Hazardous Materials and Wastes (Reglamento para el Transporte Terrestre de Materiales y Residuos Peligrosos), the SCT has established a special National Emergency System (Sistema Nacional de Emergencias (SNE)) to handle accidents, on land or at sea, involving hazardous waste or materials.

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14.2 Emergency Response

 

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Article 170 of the Ecology Law provides SEMARNAT with broad discretionary authority to respond to environmental emergencies. Should an imminent risk of ecological imbalance arise or should the environment or public health be endangered, SEMARNAT may engage in any of the following response actions:

  1. Close down the polluting facilities or sources that are responsible for the state of environmental emergency;
  2. Impound hazardous materials and wastes, as well as vehicles or instruments directly related to the environmental emergency;
  3. Neutralize the environmental emergency;
  4. Promote, before other authorities, the implementation of additional safety measures.

In addition, Mexico has a National Center for Disaster Prevention (Centro Nacional para la Prevención de Desastres (CENAPRED)), a decentralized agency under the jurisdiction of the Secretariat of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación), which studies and develops methods intended at preventing disasters. Although there are no specific rules that govern private party response to emergency spills, environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and most environmental operating licenses and permits require that contingency programs aimed at dealing with accidents or spills be outlined therein.

Involvement of States and Municipalities

In accordance with Articles 7(XII) and 8(XI), respectively, of the Ecology Law, states and municipalities may cooperate with the federal government in the event of an environmental emergency.

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2003