The New York Times
December 3, 1998
Greenpeace Accuses Mexican Oil Firm of Polluting Gulf Area

          By SAM DILLON

           MEXICO 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.

          Greenpeace officials 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 director,
          Alejandro Calvillo, said at a news conference here.

          The suit was filed after a campaign by schoolchildren, homemakers and politicians forced Texas to
          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

          Greenpeace traced the complaint filed Wednesday from an incident in August, when villagers in
          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.

          Environmentalists 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. "I've
          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 before
          deciding whether to press charges.

          Carlos Baumgarten, 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.

          Pemex executives 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.

          "They commit environmental crimes that are only rarely reported and for which they are almost never
          charged," he added.

          Accusations of environmental irresponsibility are not new to Pemex. In 1992 gasoline that had
          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