President López Obrador has ruled out any possibility of closing the oil refinery in Cadereyta, Nuevo León, due to the high levels of contamination it emits and charged that current concerns about it are politically motivated.
Speaking at a news conference in Monterrey on Thursday, López Obrador said the refinery, one of six in Mexico owned and operated by the state oil company Pemex, cannot be closed because it is needed to fulfill his government’s energy plan.
The president is determined to reduce reliance on fuel imports, pledging in June that Mexico will be self-sufficient in the production of gasoline by 2023.
López Obrador said that concerns about the contamination the Cadereyta refinery produces – it’s one of the world’s worst sulfur dioxide polluters, according to Greenpeace – are legitimate but also claimed that environmental advocates, especially those seeking public office, become more active in the lead-up to elections.
Elections to renew the lower house of the federal Congress and to elect a new governor, deputies and mayors in Nuevo León will take place next June.
López Obrador said the government will seek to resolve the Cadereyta contamination problem through investment primarily aimed at making it more productive. He said that 2 billion pesos was invested in the facility last year and that more funds are being spent on upgrading it this year.
Speaking at the same press conference, Nuevo León Governor Jaime Rodríguez said the contamination from the refinery, located about 40 kilometers east of Monterrey, affects large parts of the state and urged the president to examine the issue.
He also said he had spoken with the representatives of several companies about how the contamination problem can be resolved. “It’s necessary that we start looking at this,” Rodríguez told López Obrador.
Earlier this month, the state government’s Ministry of Sustainable Development filed a complaint with the federal Attorney General’s Office against the Cadereyta refinery after liquid contaminants from the facility spilled into a nearby waterway.
But airborne pollutants remain the biggest concern. Toxic gases emitted by the refinery, which opened in 1979, affect several municipalities in Nuevo León including those in the metropolitan area of Monterrey and they also reach the neighboring state of Coahuila.
Considered one of the most productive and profitable refineries in Mexico, the facility has the capacity to refine 275,000 barrels of oil per day, although at the start of June it was operating at just over 40% of that level. In addition to gasoline, it produces ultra low-sulfur diesel, propylene, LP gas, asphalt and coke among other products.
As a result of its activities, the refinery is the biggest polluter of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in the Monterrey metropolitan area. It also emits large quantities of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter smaller than 10 microns.