Guest post by Perla Salinas, Clúster de Energía Coahuila
PDF Download: Impact_React.jpg
The energy reform enacted in Mexico in 2014 incorporates as a new requirement the preparation of social impact assessments for energy projects and creates new rules for private companies to participate in the energy sector.
As a result of the new rules, contractual areas for the extraction of hydrocarbons that had been operated by the parastatal company were tendered. The winning companies had to comply with the new requirement to carry out the Social Impact Assessment, as well as other assessments such as environmental and infrastructure, as well as to follow a transparent negotiation process.
At the beginning, companies found it difficult to understand the importance of carrying out the study, as they only thought the Environmental Impact Assessment was the important matter. Our team held awareness sessions with some companies where talks with personnel of all the winning companies were held. Later on, our team also had awareness sessions with the authorities in charge.
Photo: Cluster de Energia Coahuila, 2016
With commitments to carry out Social Impact Assessments for several areas, we began our desk and field work. The field work, from our experience, is the most collaborative work and challenging. Our main challenges were:
Introducing ourselves with local authorities, stakeholders, landowners, and the community as a professional and neutral team that was conducting a study of Social Impact Assessment.
Talking about the hydrocarbons extraction project, since many of the owners where the activity was carried out were not aware of the change of those responsible for the contractual areas, so being the first face that notified them of the change and that we were also interested in collaborating with them to identify the impacts of the project was a major challenge.
The insecurity in the region was another challenge, which limited us to work on certain hours a day.
It is important to highlight that in our field research, we found factors that had been impacting communities and stakeholders. One of them was the increase in insecurity that occurred in several municipalities in northern Mexico in 2010 and the reduction of oil activity in the area. The oldest factor was the construction of a highway parallel to the federal highway that impacted local commerce. These factors impacted in the economy of families living in the region and were recorded within the social baseline. In addition, other social liabilities related to the projects were identified with the main stakeholders, which were a reference for the companies on how the impacts can transcend and how the companies should deal with them.
The preparation of the study showed us the need that we had in Mexico to have studies implemented that consider the interests and needs of the population and stakeholders. Those who had been previously affected by similar projects recognized that by feeling heard and participate in the identification of possible impacts felt that their opinions were taken into account. In addition, the authorities should consider requiring these studies for other infrastructure projects.
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