By SAM DILLON
CITY -- In a complaint filed Wednesday, the environmental group Greenpeace
accused the state-owned petroleum company of violating conservation laws by dumping vast
amounts of toxic waste into scores of illegal sites in swamps and forests on the Gulf Coast.
said they had documented similar abuses by the company, Petroleos
Mexicanos, known as Pemex, in hundreds of communities.
"Pemex is the
main environmental criminal in Mexico, no doubt about it," a Greenpeace
Alejandro Calvillo, said at a news conference here.
The suit was
filed after a campaign by schoolchildren, homemakers and politicians forced
halt construction of a nuclear waste site across the border near El Paso. Now environmentalists and
journalists have begun focusing on the hazards posed at home by illegal toxic-waste sites across
the complaint filed Wednesday from an incident in August, when villagers
Ixhuatlan del Sureste in Veracruz state on the Gulf Coast surprised Pemex workers as they were
emptying 55-gallon drums of toxic petroleum waste off a flatbed truck into a marsh, Calvillo said.
The workers acknowledged
that they had carried 200 barrels of waste from a Pemex refinery to the
same site over several days, he added.
have identified 60 similar sites where Pemex has been illegally discharging
petroleum wastes in that area, Calvillo said.
A spokesman for
the company, Fernando Martinez, said Pemex had no comment on the suit.
investigated, and there's no official attitude one way or the other on this," Martinez said. "It's
company policy not to respond until we get formal notification."
Under the Mexican
environmental law federal prosecutors will study Greenpeace's complaint
deciding whether to press charges.
a lawyer with the Mexican Center for Environmental Law who prepared the
Greenpeace papers, said Pemex officials, if found guilty, could face fines totaling $70,000 or prison
terms from three months to six years.
and the monopoly, which provides as much as one-third of Mexico's tax revenues
and is one of the country's most powerful institutions, have rarely been punished for environmental
practices, Baumgarten said.
environmental crimes that are only rarely reported and for which they are
charged," he added.
environmental irresponsibility are not new to Pemex. In 1992 gasoline that
leaked from a poorly maintained Pemex pipeline in the sewers of Guadalajara exploded, killing at
least 190 people and injuring 1,500.
Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company