In the latest indication that state authorities are seeking to take a tougher stance on perceived pollution, Mexico’s northern state Nuevo Leon has warned that it would seek penalties for state oil company Pemex.
The warning follows after an increase in visible emissions from Pemex’s Cadereyta refinery earlier over the weekend.
Video footage posted on social media, including by State Governor Samuel Garcia, showed thick, yellow and black smoke billowing from flare stacks. Such stacks are ordinarily meant to burn off only small volumes of excess natural gas.
“We’re going to impose harsh penalties for this incident,” Garcia, who belongs to the Citizens’ Movement, a party in opposition to the ruling National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), said in a video message.
“I’ve asked the environmental minister to be forceful and apply the law so that, whatever happens, I no longer see these types of events that pollute our air. We have the right to clean air in Nuevo Leon.”
Pemex responded in a statement that it had “safely halted” operations in one of the plants at the Cadereyta refinery in the afternoon. The company also stressed that there was no risk to the population and the emissions were under control.
Nuevo Leon’s environment ministry, however, said in a statement that it had repeatedly detected “intensified” emissions from the refinery, particularly at night, and that the refinery was responsible for 90% of sulphur dioxide emissions in the metropolitan area of Monterrey city, the state’s capital.
The ministry said that state environmental law gave it the right, if necessary, to halt operations at the refinery.
Last November The Biden administration announced plans to tighten regulations against methane emissions from domestic oil and gas drilling.
The measures were unveiled at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27, in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, and are part of the administration’s broader commitments to the global community to tackle the climate crisis.
The regulations aim to curb a key source of pollution and harmful emissions from fossil fuel companies. They require oil and gas operators to use remote sensing technology to identify and address large methane leaks and routinely monitor all well sites.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the proposed standards would reduce methane from the oil and gas sector by 87% below 2005 levels.