AMLO's Answer to Fuel Shortage Hits a Regulatory Roadblock

(Bloomberg) -- Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has secured 571 U.S. tanker trucks at a cost of $85 million to help alleviate a nationwide gasoline shortage -- but he may not be able to use them.

The agency responsible for permitting those trucks, the Energy Regulatory Commission or CRE, is about to lose a fourth commissioner, leaving the panel one vote short of being able to approve permits, according to a person familiar with the matter.

AMLO's Answer to Fuel Shortage Hits a Regulatory Roadblock

Commissioner Montserrat Ramiro is expected to step down from the agency by Feb. 15, the person said. Her resignation follows that of two other commissioners who resigned after the new government arrived, and the departure of a third commissioner who finished his term in December.

Permitting the trucks will take time and it’s unlikely the CRE will clear them before Ramiro’s departure, the person said.

A spokeswoman for the CRE said she has no official information on the resignation. Ramiro, through the spokeswoman, declined to comment. “Currently the governing body of the CRE is made up of four commissioners, including its president. as such, it can hold sessions without any problem,” the CRE said in a separate statement.

The arrival of a new government on Dec. 1 has made life difficult for Mexico’s energy regulators, who have seen their budgets slashed and senior staff pushed out as Lopez Obrador dials back oil reforms that they helped design.

The fuel shortage is a byproduct of Lopez Obrador’s efforts to curb rampant fuel theft plaguing state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos. Shuttering pipelines tapped by thieves has stymied distribution, and the government is now seeking to deploy more tanker trucks to keep supplies moving. Last week, an illegally tapped pipeline blew up in Hidalgo state, killing more than 90 people.

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