Construction of the new oil refinery on the Tabasco coast will start on June 2, the federal energy secretary said today, stating that environmental approval has now been granted.
But the head of the government department that supposedly gave the green light for the project to go ahead denies that construction has been authorized.
It was just 11 days ago that the federal government announced that the state oil company and the Secretariat of Energy (Sener) will build the Dos Bocas refinery because the bids made by private companies were too high and their estimated timeframes to complete the project were too long.
Nevertheless, Rocío Nahle told a press conference this morning that approval for the project was issued last week after the government presented a 2012 environmental impact statement (EIS) to the Security, Energy and Environmental Agency (ASEA).
The study was prepared for an oil field with 93 wells that was proposed for the refinery site.
Nahle rejected the suggestion that the approval process was overly quick.
“No, it’s not so fast. It’s not approval of the EIS because we presented the one from 2012 and they’ve asked us to make certain changes or [undertake] certain studies,” she said.
When questioned about how construction of the US $8-billion refinery could begin without approval of a new impact statement, the energy secretary was evasive.
“They already gave us the document. They already gave us the document to be able to start the project. What they are asking for are practically bureaucratic matters,” Nahle said.
Later today, ASEA executive director Luis Vera Morales said the only permission granted to Pemex and Sener is to carry out further analysis and studies at the site.
Interviewed outside the National Palace today alongside Environment Secretary Josefa González Blanco, Vera gave an unequivocal “no” in response to a question about whether construction approval has been granted.
He said last week that approval of the environmental impact statement would take at least 60 working days.
When Vera was asked whether there is a possibility that construction of the refinery will begin on June 2, the environment secretary quickly interjected that it would, although she conceded that the process to obtain environmental approval has not been completed.
“There’s no problem starting on June 2, they’re putting in the requests and they’re very much on time,” González said.
Asked whether a seven-year-old EIS for a different project could be used in order to obtain approval for the refinery, she responded: “Of course, of course it can, it definitely can . . .”