Pulse Point Newsletter for November 20, 2001
Published by Alliance Consulting International
Partners in Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety
By Enrique Medina, MS, CIH

This month we present an excerpt from a brief legal analysis recently issued by the Mexican law firm Lex Corp Abogados, which we believe you will find informative. It highlights important aspects of a package of reforms and additions to a number of laws and codes, which was formally presented by the Fox administration to the Chamber of Deputies in the Federal Congress on October 4, 2001. We present below the changes that would impact the Federal Penal Code, and the General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection.


The reforms and additions under this proposal affect a number of articles of the code. The most relevant are the following:

a) The introduction of legal concepts intended to provide a more equitable treatment to the offender, such as:

b) The introduction of guilty conduct when imposing sanctions for environmental damage caused by the failure to duly observe provisions, especially for those crimes that relate to the handling of hazardous substances and those that damage ecosystems or protected species. The crimes currently listed in the Federal Penal Code are classified only as intentional, which necessarily implies that there was intent to cause the environmental damage for the environmental liability to arise. By introducing the “guilty” element in environmental crimes, the range of possibilities of incurring a criminal environmental liability expands, since when causing an environmental harm, the intent or lack of intent to cause the damage would not be an element to be considered at the time the criminal environmental liability is determined.

c) An increase in the amount of monetary penalties.

d) The terms of hazardous waste and materials are unified under the sole concept of hazardous substances.

e) The name of Title 25 of the Federal Penal Code is changed, from the current “Environmental Crimes” to “Crimes Against the Environment.” In addition, this same Title is divided into five Chapters, including the following:

The statement of purpose of this proposal emphasizes the need to develop an Environmental Penal Code that allows for the creation of an integral and more effective system of criminal environmental liability, which includes currently excepted concepts such as the environmental liability of corporate entities.


The reforms and additions under this proposal affect a number of articles. Key aspects of this proposal include the following:

a) It provides a legal basis for the Registry of Emissions and Pollutant Transfers by stating that the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) shall keep an inventory of atmospheric emissions, wastewater discharges into federal receiving bodies, and hazardous waste under its jurisdiction. The inventory will be based on the information contained in the environmental authorizations, licenses and permits it grants.

b) An increase in the amount of fines.

c) The proposal establishes the possibility of signing Coordination Agreements between the Federal Government (through SEMARNAT) and the states or the Federal District, in order that they assume, within the scope of their jurisdiction, the powers that at present solely reside with the Federal Government. Such powers include:

d) The possibility of imposing sanctions is set forth, not only with regard to the damages caused but also taking account of the damages that may arise, basing the criteria for offenses under the Law not only on environmental damages but also on environmental risk.

Information for this article was provided by 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.

If you have questions about how this article or other health, safety or environmental issues, please contact us at (619) 297-1469 or send us an email at emedina@pulse-point.com.

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.