“People don’t know what ‘fracking’ is and there is little concern about the issue because it’s not visible yet,” said Gabino Vicente, a delegate of one of the municipalities in southern Mexico where exploration for unconventional gas is forging ahead.
As Mexico is about to open its oil industry up to foreign investment, it will need penalties for negligence and regulations that force private firms to follow best practices in order to avoid problems like oil spills, analysts say.
As Mexico moves towards a controversial reform that would be the largest opening of the oil industry to foreign investors in decades, local communities and non-governmental organisations are fighting in court against earlier contracts with foreign companies, which have been possible since 2008.
Non-governmental organisations are putting pressure on multilateral financial institutions not to finance production of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing or fracking because of the high environmental costs they say are associated with this method.
Fed up with oil spills from facilities belonging to Mexico’s state oil company Pemex, residents of two communities in the southeastern state of Tabasco are taking the country’s largest company to court in a bid for compensation for damage to the environment and agriculture.
Mexico plans to expand shale gas exploration this year, but it could run into a shortage of water, which is essential to hydraulic fracturing or fracking, the method used to capture natural gas from shale rocks.