By MARK LORENZANA
Federal judges on Tuesday, July 12, put a stop to the order of Mexico’s federal government that forced private companies to buy natural gas from Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and state oil giant Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex).
Through five amparo (habeas corpus) injunctions, the judges — who specialize in economic-competition cases — suspended the effects of the decree issued in June 13 of this year by the head of Mexico’s Energy Secretariat (Sener), Rocío Nahle, which would have created a monopoly in favor of Pemex and the CFE.
Nahle, in June, sent an official letter to the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) and the National Gas Control Center (Cenagas) with instructions to modify regulations and transport contracts for natural gas, a direct order that would essentially force consumers using natural gas — mostly large corporations — to buy their supply exclusively from the CFE or Pemex.
Sener argued that state resources have not been used optimally and that the CFE, for example, had only taken advantage of 68 and 41 percent of the capacity from paid-for contracts in Mexican and U.S. gas pipelines, respectively.
The letter that Nahle sent to the CRE and Cenegas said that Mexico is able to import 8.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, but the country is only using 41 percent of that amount. The CFE, meanwhile, has transport contracts amounting to 18 billion cubic feet daily, and only 68 percent is being used.
“This results in disbursements from the CFE to try to recover equivalent to 10 million pesos a year,” the letter said.
The private sector warned that the Sener decree was clearly unconstitutional.
Judge Juan Pablo Gómez Fierro granted the suspension for the injunctions filed by companies Tractebel Energía del Pánuco and GDF Suez México Comercializadora. Gómez Fierro also admitted an injunction from Grupo Fermaca, the second-largest natural-gas infrastructure operator in the country.
For his part, Judge Rodrigo de la Peza granted the suspension from three appeals, but did not disclose the names of the companies.