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NAFTA Panel Calls for Probe of Mexico's OK of Chevron LNG Project

The Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a tri-national commission set up under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), last week denied a request by Mexico to suspend an investigation into whether the country violated its own laws when it approved a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal next to a biodiversity hotspot on the U.S. border.

In 2005, U.S. and Mexican conservation organizations filed a formal petition with the NAFTA commission to challenge the Mexican government's granting of permits to ChevronTexaco Corp. to build an LNG terminal just 500 yards from the Coronado Islands, which provide critical nesting habitat for six threatened or endangered seabird species and 10 other species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world.

The targeted ChevronTexaco LNG terminal and regasification facility would be located about eight miles off the coast of Baja California, Mexico. In September 2004, the 1,400 MMcf/d project won approval from Semarnat, Mexico's environmental agency (see Daily GPI, Sept. 21, 2004).

"This facility would be such a disaster to seabirds and fish that it could not lawfully be built in the United States," said Brendan Cummings, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

In its ruling, the Secretariat of the Commission, located in Montreal, Canada, called for an investigation into whether the Mexican government properly considered alternatives to the project and sufficiently analyzed the impacts of the terminal on endangered species. The Council of the Commission is expected to announce in a couple of months whether it will undertake a "full, factual" investigation, said Cummings.

The original petition was submitted by a number of environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace Mexico, American Bird Conservancy, Los Angeles Audubon, Pacific Environment and Wildcoast.

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