On January 3, 2020, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources decreed an extension of three years to the period of regularization of environmental instruments in Guatemala. Thus, existing projects have until December 16, 2022, to apply for their respective environmental license.
The environmental instrument is a technical document in which environmental impacts and risks are established as well as the actions that will be taken to mitigate any resulting damages. The instrument is approved by means of an environmental license. The obligation to have an environmental instrument exists since 1986 according to Article 8 of the Law on Protection and Improvement of the Environment (Decree 68-86). However, the national interest in compliance with environmental legal provisions has recently increased, following the worldwide trend of concern for the preservation of the environment and the fight against climate change.
In 2016, the Environmental Control and Monitoring Regulation (RECSA), Governmental Agreement 137-2016, was issued, setting a period of two years for companies to regularize by presenting their environmental instrument. It is important to clarify that the fact of regularizing by presenting an environmental instrument does not exempt the interested party that is subject to the imposition of a fine of Q. 5,000.00 for having started operations without having presented its environmental instrument. However, even though such a fine is legally established, the Ministry of Environment is not currently imposing such penalty.
Due to the large number of stakeholders who decided to regularize their situation regarding environmental regulations, on December 24, 2019, the reform of the RECSA was published in the Diario de Centro América and established two important modifications:
- A term of three more years (expiring December 16, 2022) was established for the process of regularization of environmental instruments, with the imposition of a fine of Q. 5,000.00 for failure to comply regardless of the category of the project.
- The obligation to present a bond (also known as precaution insurance) that was required to obtain an environmental license was eliminated.
Therefore, it is clear that all works, projects, and industries must present the environmental instrument considering:
- First, the opportunity provided by the new deadline;
- Second, the fact that it is no longer necessary to acquire a bond or insurance, which involved an additional cost for companies; and
- Third, but not least, it is a mechanism to identify environmental damages that occur and seek to mitigate them.
Remember that the purpose of all of the above implies being in compliance with local legislation, guaranteeing protection to our environment and seeking to mitigate the damage we produce.