As the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster approached its second month, high-ranking Mexican officials revealed this week they will seek money from British Petroleum.
Tamaulipas Governor Eugenio Hernandez Flores, whose state bordering Texas is located to the southwest of the gushing Deepwater Horizon well operated by British Petroleum off the Louisiana coast, said his government is looking at suing the international energy giant for current and future damages resulting from the massive oil leak.
“It should be pointed out that while the spill doesn’t reach the Mexican coast, the impacts and damages are already happening,” Hernandez said. “Among other things, these include the costs of environmental studies of a preventative character and the cancellation of investments.”
Hernandez said government institutions, private businesses, fishing cooperatives, hotel investments, and endangered wildlife species are potentially affected by the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.
Mexican Environment Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada assumed a similar posture, telling reporters at a Mexico City press conference that the Calderon administration is considering asking British Petroleum to set aside money for a fund similar to the one agreed upon with the Obama administration or, alternatively, hauling the company into an international court.
Elvira said Mexico would like to obtain an initial sum of $20 million to pay for ongoing coastal monitoring, testing, environmental studies, training, and personnel. According to the Calderon administration’s environmental point man, the federal government has been monitoring Mexican waters for a month, but stepped-up activity is now needed.
“We can’t wait to see if a black patch comes on top of the water,” Elvira insisted. “We have to begin probing at 100, 200, 300 or 500 meters of depth to see exactly how the marine currents are moving.”
Under the worst case scenarios, Elvira said, oil could reach Tamaulipas’ waters by December and the coasts of Veracruz and Yucatan state by early 2011. Quintana Roo, home of the key international resort of Cancun, is not at risk, he said.
Elvira assured the press that Mexico has an action plan to confront any possible oil contamination, including the construction of physical barriers to attempt blocking an oil flow. He added that the National Ecology Institute will spend about $4 million on intensified water monitoring in the coming days. Forcing Mexico to dig deep into its budget for such unanticipated expenses is not fair, Elvira argued.
Elvira expressed specific concern that the oil could reach Tamaulipas’ Playa Nueva and ruin 40 years of efforts to save and restore the Atlantic Ridley sea turtle. He said the Mexican recovery program has succeeded in increasing the number of turtles in the region from 500 in the 1970s and 1980s to more than 8,000 today.
Meanwhile, as part of a campaign for a faster conversion from fossil fuels to renewable energy, the environmental group Greenpeace Mexico staged a mock oil spill in Mexico City on June 17.
The activist organization criticized the Calderon administration for promoting carbon reductions on the international stage while planning to increase the use of coal in the generation of electricity by 50 percent and ramp up oil production to 3.3 million barrels a day through 2024.
According to the green group, the percentage of renewable energy sources used in Mexico’s electricity sector could amount to only 7.6 percent in 2009, compared with about 9 percent in 2007.
A failure to reverse the course of energy policy, Greenpeace contended, “will accelerate climate change and put us at risk of suffering new disasters like the current spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Sources: La Jornada, June 18, 2010. Article by Angelica Enciso L. El Universal, June 17, 2010. Article by Roberto Aguilar. Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources, June 17, 2010. Press release. Greenpeace Mexico, June 17, 2010. Press release.