This is the first time that a petition to the NAFTA environment commission has reached the stage in a complaint procedure where an official response is requested from one of the three NAFTA countries. Responses were not requested on earlier petitions because the petitions failed to meet the basic criteria set-out in the environmental side accord to NAFTA.
Under articles 14 and 15 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), any person or organization may file a petition with the Secretariat of the CEC alleging that one of the NAFTA countries is failing to effectively enforce its environmental law.
According to the NAAEC, the Mexican government now has 30 days -- 60 in exceptional circumstances -- to respond to the Secretariat of the NAFTA environment commission. After the Mexican government has responded, the Secretariat will recommend to the CEC Council -- composed of the Environment Ministers of the NAFTA countries -- whether or not to go ahead with a fact-finding investigation, known under the NAAEC as a "factual record."
The Mexican Center for Environmental Law, the Grupo de los Cien and the Natural Resources Protection Committee filed the petition, which claims that the Mexican government issued developers permits to install and operate pier and port facilities on Cozumel Island without conforming to the legally-required environmental impact study process.
The CEC, which is funded equally by the three NAFTA partners, is based in Montreal, Canada.