Environmental concerns are growing in Mexico in the wake of the liberalization of the country’s energy laws, with campaigners particularly concerned about the impact that hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” will have on water in the Burgos Basin in the north of the country.
Ricardo Mejía Berdeja, vice coordinator of the Movimiento Ciudadano (Citizens’ Movement) in the country’s House of Representatives, said he would hold a forum on February 19 to analyze the risks to Mexico posed by fracking.
In Mexico, there are concerns about the quantity of water that is required to split the rock to release shale gas, and the risk that the chemicals used will contaminate water supplies.
To frack one well requires between 9 and 29 million liters of water. Under President Enrique Peña Nieto’s plan, as many as 20,000 wells will be drilled per year, which is equivalent to the domestic consumption of between 4.9 million and 15.9 million people per year.
Mexico’s shale gas resources are located in the north of the country near the border with the United States, where drought can be a problem. Mejía Berdeja has called for implementation of legal safeguards before fracking becomes commonplace.
“The serious environmental and social consequences that fracking produces warn of the need to set out a legal framework that is capable of preventing it,” he said, “as opposed to the [current] proposal that simply plans the incorporation of the technique into the national [energy] strategy without taking into account the problems that it carries.”
The changes to the country’s law that allow development of the energy industry have been highly controversial due to the loss of sovereignty over the county’s hydrocarbon resources, as well as the threat to the environment. The changes came about only after an amendment to Mexico’s constitution at the end of last year, backed by political horse-trading from the president and the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party(PRI).
Concerns about the implications of fracking have led to bans in France and Bulgaria, and limits on its practice in Romania, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.