CEC receives a second submission on the Sumidero Canyon

Montreal, 1 December 2011—On 29 November 2011, Comité Pro-Mejoras de la Ribera Cahuaré (the “Submitter”) filed a submission with the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) under Article 14(1) of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). The Submitter asserts that Mexico is failing to effectively enforce its environmental laws with respect to the operations of a limestone quarry, which is allegedly causing damage to the Sumidero Canyon in Chiapas, Mexico.

In its submission, SEM-11-002 (Sumidero Canyon II), the Submitter asserts that a limestone quarry’s continued material extraction operation inside the Sumidero Canyon National Park is causing environmental damage to the canyon’s east face. The Submitter further asserts that the quarry operations are impairing the air quality in the community of Ribera de Cahuaré and, in particular, that air emissions of limestone particles are damaging children’s respiratory health. The Submitter also asserts that air monitoring efforts by local authorities have not provided reliable data on air quality.

Moreover, the Submitter maintains that despite repeated requests for information regarding the environmental impact authorization for the quarry operations, no follow-up response has been received and that the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales—Semarnat) has not published a management plan for the Sumidero Canyon National Park. The Submitter states that enforcement actions by the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente—Profepa) to control the quarry’s operations have been insufficient to address the matters raised by the Submitter.

In submission SEM-11-002 (Sumidero Canyon II), the Submitter refers to similar facts and alleged environmental law enforcement failures included in submission SEM-10-001 (Sumidero Canyon), which was terminated on 14 July 2010, due to the Submitter’s failure to provide the Secretariat with a revised submission. The Submitter is the same in both submissions concerning Sumidero Canyon.

The CEC Secretariat is now reviewing SEM-11-002 in order to determine whether it meets the criteria for submissions set forth in Article 14 of the NAAEC.

NAAEC Articles 14 and 15 include procedures allowing citizens to make submissions to the CEC Secretariat, asserting “that a Party [to the NAAEC] is failing to effectively enforce its environmental law.” The CEC has published the Guidelines for Submissions on Enforcement Matters explaining these procedures.

In appropriate cases, and upon instruction from the CEC Council, the CEC Secretariat may examine a submission further and develop a factual record.