The head of Mexico’s oil industry regulator, the National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH), said on Nov. 14 he would step down from his post at the end of this month, just as the next government takes power.
CNH President Juan Carlos Zepeda said in a statement, however, he would be an external adviser to the government of President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who takes office on Dec. 1.
Zepeda has overseen the opening of the country’s oil and gas industry to new private producers under constitutional changes by outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto.
The oil regulator supervises more than 100 E&P contracts awarded at auctions since 2015 in addition to approving drilling plans by national oil company Pemex, which Lopez Obrador has said he will seek to strengthen.
The incoming president, a leftist, has been skeptical of the benefits of allowing private and foreign oil companies to participate in the industry, and has threatened to walk back oil reform.
Zepeda, who has headed the independent regulator since its creation in 2009, said that next year, when his second five-year term would have expired, he would be joining a company managing funds dedicated to infrastructure and energy development.
CNH’s seven commissioners are nominated by the Mexico’s president and serve staggered terms that overlap Mexico’s six-year presidential terms.
The departure of Zepeda takes place after an initiative was launched in the lower house of Congress by lawmakers of the party of Lopez Obrador, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), that critics said could limit the CNH's autonomy.
A senior MORENA lawmaker was later reported as saying that the part of the proposal that sparked concerns about the regulator's independence would be withdrawn.
Still, the plan fed worries among business groups already skeptical of Lopez Obrador’s economic policies following a controversial referendum last month he used to justify canceling a new partly-built $13 billion Mexico City airport.