Mexican Fracking Foes Lose a Big Round

Mexican opponents of the controversial method of extracting natural gas known as fracking lost an important battle in the Mexican Senate late last week. As part of a 91-26 vote that approved secondary legislation implementing the Pena Nieto administration’s energy reform, most senators rejected a measure that would have prohibited fracking.

Prior to the July 18 vote, the Mexican Alliance against Fracking, a grouping of environmental organizations, presented senators with a petition signed by more than 10,000 people that supported a fracking ban.
Nonetheless, a majority of senators from President Pena Nieto’s PRI party joined with lawmakers from the PAN and PVEM (Mexican Green) parties to reject an outright prohibition of fracking. Voting in favor of a ban were members of the PRD and PT parties.

Senator Pablo Escudero, PVEM representative, maintained that environmental studies in the United States, as well as the history of fracking in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico and other states, showed that fracking could be done in a safe manner. To back up his case, Escudero referred to studies by University of California physicist Dr. Richard Muller, whose pro-environment arguments in favor of fracking have engendered sharp polemics.

Taking a stand against outlawing fracking in Mexico, PAN Senator Silvia Garza of Coahuila, who represents a state where large deposits of shale gas are said to be located, declared that economic development could not be stopped.

“I am against overregulation,” Garza said. “I am against the brake they want to put on this country.”

Chihuahua Senator Javier Corral, also a member of the PAN, begged to differ from the majority of his colleagues.

“One cannot affect the viability of the planet in the name of economic development,” Corral said. “(Fracking) will have devastating consequences in the state of Chihuahua, from the intensive use of water and its contamination, and from methane emissions that produce 21 times more greenhouse gases than does carbon dioxide.”

Corral continued, “Over there (Chihuahua), where rain is not plentiful, how will they bring the (water) necessary for drilling a well?”

Fracking proponents earlier got a boost from a prominent figure known for his environmental advocacy-Nobel Chemistry Prize winner Mario Molina.

In a recent comments to the Mexican press, Molina gave a qualified endorsement to fracking,  saying it was a viable proposition as long as it was “done right.” Like Senator Escudero, Molina pointed to the United States (where opposition to fracking is growing), adding that enhanced gas exploitation had brought economic benefits.

“Let’s do it as it is done in the U.S.,” Molina said. “It varies a lot from state to state, but some are doing it very well. If it is not done right, it won’t last long. It’s being stopped in many countries.”

Passed in the Senate, the energy reform legislation, minus the anti-fracking measure, was sent to the lower house of the Mexican Congress for approval. Meanwhile, the Mexican Alliance against Fracking vowed to keep fighting against the extraction of shale gas. According a message posted on the activist group’s Facebook page, an additional 13,000 people signed the anti-fracking petition after it was delivered to senators last week.

For a recent, in-depth FNS report on fracking in Mexico, readers can check out:

Additional sources: El Mexicano/El Sol de Mexico, July 19, 2014. Article by Bertha Becerrra. La Jornada, July 17 and July 19, 2014. Articles by Emir Olivares, Andrea Becerril and Enrique Mendez., July 18, 2014. Article by Angelica Mercado and Omar Brito. Proceso/Apro, July 17, 2014. Article by Jenaro Villamil. El Universal, May 19 and July, 2014.  Articles by Adriana Vallinas,  Alberto Morales and Juan Arvizu.

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