With an estimated 600 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas and 13 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil, Mexico is one of six countries that account for almost two-thirds of recoverable shale gas in the world, and Chihuahua is one of four northern states with accessible reserves. (2) (1) Pemex began the exploration process for shale gas production in Chihuahua and elsewhere as of 2010, and with the recent constitutional reforms in Mexico that ended Pemex’s 75-year monopology, foreign companies have begun to invest in gas and oil exploration and production in Mexico, as well. (1) (3) As of February of 2014 Pemex had drilled 29 wells in Chihuahua, and officials have claimed that more than 18 trillion cubic meters were found in initial exploration. Studies undertaken on the potential of fracking in the region took in $230 million in investments and are expected to be published early in 2015. (4) Cesar Duarte, Governor of Chihuahua, supports fracking and claims that the money it brings in will help support economic and social development in the state.
Duarte has been meeting with European investors, businessmen at a conference in Washington D.C., and Pemex in his attempts to bring in more investment in fracking in Chihuahua. (2) However, many prominent figures in Chihuahua have come out against fracking. A former sectional president of Samalayuca, Chihuahua, Javier Melendez has called for the desert environment to be treated differently when it comes to fracking, since natural resources, especially water, are in such a delicate state. He believes an increased strain on water that fracking would cause would prove catastrophic. Martha Beatriz Cordova, a Chihuahuan Congresswamn, has also openly opposed fracking. (2) Popular resistance is taking place, as well. In April, hundreds of Chihuahuan small-scale farmers listed fracking as one of their main grievances in the Chamizal Proclamation during a blockade of the Bridge of Americas linking Ciudad Juarez with El Paso (2). Then, in June, the Chihuahua Citizen Alliance against Fracking formed in Chihuahua City. The alliance includes NGOs, students, and militants for leftwing and rightwing political parties alike, and is supported by Chihuahua Senator Javier Corral, member of the National Action Party (PAN).
Corral argues that fracking will not employ many local people and that the country should focus on adopting alternate energy choices. (2) Aaron Velasco, a professor who studies Geological Sciences with expertise in earthquakes and volcanoes, recently collaborated with counterparts at UACJ—the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez—to conduct a study on seismic activity in Chihuahua. One of the collaborating academics, professor Oscar Dena Ornelas, says that more environmental studies should be undertaken in order to better understand how fracking might affect the local ecology. (1) Another Mexican geologist named Dr. Luca Ferrari Pedraglio argues that shale gas wells have very short lives, which can promote ‘irregular business practices’ in a climate where regulation is limited. There is a fear that fracking could be a lucrative opportunity for organized crime groups to increase their profits on a scale that dwarfs those currently coming in through the drug trade. This could mean that regions being fracked could face heightened militarization by the Mexican army and private security firms. This is especially of concern in Chihuahua, as the state is in so-called ‘Zeta Territory’ controlled by the Zeta organized crime group who frequently profit off of theft and distribution of diesel and gasoline. (2)