Pulse Point Newsletter for July 30, 2001
Published by Alliance Consulting International
Partners in Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety

By Enrique Medina, MS, CIH

In this issue we continue our overview of Mexico's reorganization of the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), announced in its new internal regulations published in the Official Journal of the Federation on June 4, 2001. This month we take a look at changes in PROFEPA, the Federal Attorney General for Environmental Protection.

As one of SEMARNAT's most visible decentralized agencies, PROFEPA is charged with enforcing Mexico's federal environmental statutes, regulations and standards. In addition, SEMARNAT's jurisdiction over natural resources broadened PROFEPA's inspection and enforcement responsibility to include fisheries and forestry related matters.

Under the new scheme adopted by the Vicente Fox administration, PROFEPA, headed by Attorney General for Environmental Protection José Ignacio Campillo-García, has been granted broader prosecutorial and investigative powers. Among these is the right to initiate legal action, in conjunction with state and local judicial authorities, for administrative and criminal violations of environmental laws. Previously, PROFEPA was limited to investigating environmental crimes and turning over cases to the Federal Attorney General's office for prosecution before the federal courts. Another faculty contained in the internal regulations, and intended to enhance PROFEPA's prosecutorial powers allows PROFEPA access to all records and databases held by SEMARNAT's administrative units.

These changes are reflected in PROFEPA's organizational restructuring. The agency is now organized around four Assistant Attorney Generals: Environmental Audits, Industrial Verification, Natural Resources, and a new office of the Assistant Attorney General for Legal Affairs. An organizational chart of the new PROFEPA (presented by courtesy of LexCorp Abogados*) is attached for the reader's convenience.

The Environmental Audits office headed by Dr. Luis Fernando Hernandez-Lezama has three General Directorates (Bureaus) for Planning and Coordination, Operations and Control, and Environmental Risk and Accident Prevention Audits. Their main attributes are to coordinate the environmental audit program of public and private facilities using agency staff or outside firms, as well as to oversee the Clean Industry Program, which awards certificates to facilities that successfully complete the audits' compliance action plans.

The Industrial Verification office has been charged with identifying industrial operations, processes, and equipment that require environmental permits, and coordinating PROFEPA's inspection and verification force to ensure compliance with environmental laws. Alfredo Fuad David-Gidi continues as the Assistant Attorney General for this branch of PROFEPA.

The new Natural Resources Assistant Attorney General, Diana Ponce-Nava, is responsible for enforcement policies and inspection and verification procedures in the areas of Forestry, Wildlife, Fisheries and Marine Resources, and Environmental Impacts in the country's marine shoreline, referred to as the Maritime Land Zone. Four General Directorates are in charge of enforcing protection of Mexico's natural resources, a stated priority of SEMARNAT Secretary Victor Lichtinger.

The Legal Affairs Assistant Attorney General is supported by two General Directorates. The first is the Federal Environmental Crimes and Prosecution, which, in addition to initiating prosecutions, may also undertake actions to secure the reparation of environmental damages, within the provisions of the statute and corresponding regulations. The General Directorate for Administrative Procedures Control and Consultation is responsible for handling the administrative appeal process as well as to promote the modification, suspension or cancellation of authorizations, permits, licenses, concessions or registrations, when approved activities present an environmental risk or operate in violation of regulatory standards.

PROFEPA's operational divisions are supported by a number of administrative units, which play an important role in internal management, as well as handling public participation and receiving complaints. The agency operates in the 31 Mexican states and Mexico City through a system of Delegations headed by a state Delegate. Under the government's administrative decentralization policy, state delegates have increasing authority and autonomy in conducting PROFEPA's business in the states. The agency is expected to continue its policy of replacing or rotating state delegates on a regular basis.

If you have questions or comments about this or other articles on Mexico environmental and health & safety regulatory issues, please contact us at (619) 297-1469 or send us an email emedina@pulse-point.com.

* Part of the information in this article was obtained from LexCorp Abogados, an environmental and general business law firm headquartered in Mexico City. LexCorp's environmental group leader, Daniel Basurto can be reached at dbasurto@lexcorp.com.mx. The chart and this article can also be found in the Pulse Point archives at www.pulse-point.com/archive.

Alliance Consulting International
Partners in Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety
3361 28th St.
San Diego, California 92104
(fax (619)297-1023

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Pulse Point is written for the benefit of our readers with the sole intent to provide general information. The articles are not intended as specific opinions or as a substitute for professional advice in individual cases.