Ensenada's Municipal President, Enrique Pelayo Torres, told reporters in July that the United States Government had denied the request to renew his visa because he interfered with the Costa Azul plant to import liquid natural gas, which belongs to the US company Sempra.

Pelayo's statement in February, which can be found below, points out the gas plant’s dangers and treats to public safety and the environment, and notes that these are exactly the same as those that the citizens of the neighboring state of California USA oppose in this type of industry along their own coast.

The gas company denied having any involvement in the visa decision, the US authorities cited confidentiality, and the Mexican government sent troops to guard Sempra's plant in Baja California in response to the demands to close the plant.
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Ensenada municipal workers observe the temporary closure of the Sempra Energy plant.
(Photo: Ernesto Boledo
Attempt by Municipal President to Close Natural Gas Plant Leads to Unforeseen Consequences
Ensenada's Municipal Council Announces the Total Temporary Closure of Sempra Energy Plant

The Ensenada Municipal Council, wishes to inform the public that as of 4:38 p.m. today, it has decided to temporarily close the entire operations of the Liquid Natural Gas Terminal, which is a legal entity of Energía Costa Azul S. de R. L. de C.V., (Sempra Energy), located on the coast of this municipality.

The actions taken by the Council stem from a series of irregularities and flagrant violations of the law that Sempra Energy committed when building the plant in an area that is nearby the most beautiful tourist corridor in the world, the Tijuana-Rosarito-Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico Scenic Route.

Among the articles that were violated were: 1, 4, 5, 6, 47, 83, 84, 85, 136, 138, and 140 of the Urban Development Law for the State of Baja California.  Additionally there was non-compliance with paragraphs 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 and 3.4 of the Regional Program of Urban, Tourism and Ecological Development of the Tijuana-Rosarito-Ensenada Coastal Corridor (COCOTREN).

Municipal President Enrique Pelayo Torres pointed out that with these actions, we are “guarding the physical integrity of every inhabitant of Ensenada against an undesirable eventuality and complying with the requests of the Federal Congress as well as the State Congress of Baja California, who instructed the Council to investigate, review, and act accordingly regarding the installation and operation of the Energía Costa Azul terminal.

The definitive suspension issued by the judge against Sempra Energy has been thoroughly reviewed by the Council’s judicial board, and it was determined that the judgment in no way limited the actions that the Council could legally take to comply with the law.  The board cited the judge’s ruling in their suspension of the plant:

El portal de Ensenada published the open letter by Enririque Pelayo Torres, Municipal President of Ensenada. (Photo: www.ensenada.gob.mx)
at the request of the Federal Congress, determined that the permit was granted illegally and unilaterally by the Tijuana Municipal President, in violation of the Urban Development Law and municipal regulations.  It also pointed out that the Municipal Council is not solely represented by the President but also by the entire board, which in this case did not grant the land-use permit. Therefore, the decision is null and void.

At the same time there was an illegal attempt to modify the industrial and tourism zoning of the area where the terminal is located, by violating the legal requirements set forth in the Regional Program of Urban, Tourism and Ecological Development of the Tijuana-Rosarito-Ensenada Coastal Corridor, (COCOTREN).  In this plan, the corridor is designated as an area for development of both tourism and ecological projects, making it incompatible with the construction of the gas terminal in its current location. Such violations have been recognized by the authorities at all three levels of government through the Marine-Ecological Reform Program for the Pacific North published by SEMARNAT.  Given this, the municipal government of Ensenadal has, with every step, acted within the law and protected the interests of its citizens.

We are committed to supporting investment, whether public or private, national or international, but only if the investments fall within a legal framework, and respect our country’s laws, regulations, and the well-being of the people of Ensenada.

It is quite clear that the stance of President Pelayo Torres, is that the legal framework be respected and that under no circumstances will he allow anyone to be above the law.

* Enrique Pelayo Torres, President, Municipality of Ensenada
The municipal government has no blueprints of the overall plant design or of its mechanical features. This means that it has no technical information about the pipes, ducts, valves or other safety systems which would allow the Department of Civil Protection to implement effective safety measures in a timely manner to guarantee the safety of the population. 

The plant should offer an insurance policy against any risk with the Municipality as beneficiary in order to guarantee the payment of any damages in case of an incident.

Damage to both the ecosystem and the area’s biodiversity began with the clearing and leveling of the land. It continued with dredging and the construction of breakwaters, piers and other structures that have created serious disturbances to the sea floor and the quality of the off-shore waters that are home to a large variety of species of marine flora and fauna.

At the same time, the irresponsible actions of employees from all three levels of the government have allowed Energía Costa Azul’s gas terminal to become the only one in the world of its kind that lacks a thermal exclusion zone, or buffer zone.  By allowing this, they have violated both national and international laws and have done so with the complacency and/or complicity of those authorities responsible for complying with these laws.

The Council Chair said “the Municipal authorities have no knowledge of blueprints of the roads, ducts or other infrastructure within the area of the plant.” The operation of this plant violates the norms of public safety and social norms.

The conclusions reached in the review process of the land-use permit for  Energía  Costa Azul that  was  carried  out  by  the   municipality

logo Ensenada
logo Ensenada
“Without affecting the responsible authorities’ right to exercise their ability to inspect, monitor and verify the compliance with existing norms pertinent to the activity being developed, and in the case of any irregularity, to apply sanctions or take any corresponding legal action.” Therefore, the temporary, total closure of Energía Costa Azul adheres strictly to the intent of the law.

The municipal authority conducted the corresponding review and verification of the documents submitted by Energía Costa Azul S. de C.R.L Sempra Energy, finding severe irregularities and violations of the law; such as with the land-use permit issued by the Municipal President of Tijuana, Dr. Jorge Antonio Catalán Sosa, who in fact lacked the legal authority to extend such a permit.

“The rule of law demands among other things that the Municipal Citizen’s Protection Department have all of the technical information regarding gas ducts that cross through the municipality’s cities and towns, since nitrogen gas is injected into these pipes in order to increase the pressure so that they are able to transport the gas in subterranean ducts from the plant in Ensenada to the US.”

To date, the company has not furnished the municipality with the operational risk manual in which alternatives and procedures would be outlined for emergencies or other situations that put the population of Ensenada at risk. Because of this, it has been determined that no such emergency preventative procedures actually exist for such eventuality.

Sempra Energy’s Liquid Natural Gas Terminal, located in Ensenada, has no local emergency treatment center which should have the infrastructure and equipment needed by firefighters and paramedics.