Companies doing business in the maquiladora industry should become familiar with the Mexican environmental framework for emissions regulation and permitting. The process is relatively simple and integrated.

The Mexican Permitting Regime

All factories emitting wastes subject to governmental regulation must apply for an integrated permit known as the Licencia Ambiental Única (LAU), or the Integrated Environmental License. Mexican federal environmental regulatory authorities utilize this single document as the source for important information relating to all atmospheric emissions, hazardous wastes, wastewater effluent, and project environmental risk and impact. While other permits and licenses within the Mexican environmental framework vary in terms of their length of validity (between one and thirty years), the LAU is typically issued once indefinitely.

Generally, the LAU is to include all federal environmental obligations the source of air emissions is subject to. Yet other permits are often applied for first from the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales) or SEMARNAT. Likewise, some permits are first applied for, within the Mexican environmental framework, via the National Water Commission (Comisión Nacional del Agua) in the case of water permitting. The LAU may include some of the conditions or terms governing these individual permits in common. But some of the specific terms and conditions of some permits and authorizations may not always be set out in the Licencia Ambiental Única.

Mexican environmental framework reporting requirements

Emissions and waste data subject to this permit must be annually reported via an operation card (cédula de operación annual), which is submitted to the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales). The card may be submitted on any date prior to June 30th, and is included in the Register of Emissions and Transfer of Contaminants (RETC), which is produced and made publicly available to fulfill transparency policy requirements set forth by Mexican government in the area of Mexican environmental regulation.


Failure to comply with regulations and permitting procedures that are a part of the Mexican environmental framework may result in consequences that vary in severity depending on numerous factors, including compliance history, the type of permit or authorization, and the seriousness of the non-compliance. Among the possible sanctions that may be levied against organizations found to be non-compliant are:

  • Fines ranging from approximately $100USD to $220,000USD
  • Complete or partial closure of activities in question
  • Revocation of existing authorizations/permits
  • Arrest for up to 36 hours