International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Argentina

Argentina’s Constitution incorporates “the right of all inhabitants to enjoy a healthy, balanced and suitable environment for human development.” It also outlines the concept of sustainable development, along with the “duty to immediately correct and restore any damage caused to the environment”

The Federal Constitution, amended in 1994: Sets out fundamental principles for the protection of the environment. The provisions empower the Federal Government to delineate minimum standards for protection, while the provinces have their own regulations, determining minimum standards of protection.

The Secretary of Environment and Sustainable Development (Federal Secretary) is part of the executive branch of the Federal Government and oversees the Environmental Federal Council (Consejo Federal de Medio Ambiente) (COFEMA), which was created under the National Environmental Policy (NEP).

Featured Legislation

The nation’s legal framework on the environment draws upon each province’s local regulations for the preservation of natural resources. Environmental legislation, then, comprises federal, provincial and municipal laws and regulations. However, Section 41 of the National Constitution gives the Federal Government the power to enact rules which establish the minimum standards of protection, with the expectation that provinces will harmonize their regulations and standards of protection.

National Congress exercises jurisdiction on the following environmental matters:

  • Coastal waters and territories
  • The ratification and approval of international treaties and conventions
  • The regulation of interprovincial and international trade
  • The regulation of navigation of international rivers

1948: The Federal Forests Act was brought into force, establishing governance over forests and forestry lands in all provinces.

1973: The Air Resources Preservation Act was passed, guaranteeing public health and the regulation of all sources polluting the atmosphere within specified jurisdictions.

1981: The Soil Conservation Act was created with the aim of recovering the productive capacity of soil through private action.

1991: The Federal Hazardous Waste Act was approved, outlining the “cradle to the grave” system for hazardous waste – in other words, from generator to transport, treatment, storage and final disposal.

In 1993: The Environmental Impact Assessment Act was brought into effect but the President Carlos Menem decided to veto it out of fear that the legislation would discourage foreign investment. In 1994: Law No. 24.354 was passed, requiring impact assessments for all projects.

1995: Argentina joined Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay as a Southern member of the Cone Common Market (MERCOSUR), promoting the importance of sustainable development.

2004: Law No. 25- 943 was presented. This Law provides for the creation of the company Energía Argentina Sociedad Anónima, whose purpose will be to carry out the study, exploration and exploitation of solid, liquid and gaseous hydrocarbon deposits, as well as the transportation, storage, distribution, the commercialization and industrialization of these products and their derivatives. Likewise, it will have the ownership of the exploration permits and the exploitation concessions over all of the national maritime waters that are not already subject to such permits or concessions at the date of entry into force of this Law.

2016:The National Policy and Strategy for Territorial Development and Planning was created. This document contains the State Policy for Territorial Development of Argentina (PNDT) for the medium and long term, with the aim of reordering the national territory. Specifically, it seeks to guide actions with a spatial impact towards a balanced, integrated, sustainable and socially fair growth of the Argentine territory and to build more adequate intervention mechanisms to take advantage of development opportunities. The document consists of three chapters and a conclusion. Chapter 2 presents the main objectives of the National Development and Territorial Planning Policy, while Chapter 3 presents the strategy to implement said policy. One of the primary objectives is to achieve access for the population to essential goods and services, enabling personal and collective development and a high quality of life in all corners of the country. To this end, the policies and projects of the State must: a) order the functioning of human settlements, through the development and re-functionalization of areas and cities; b) maintain equitable access to infrastructure, housing, services and social, health and educational equipment in a way that promotes equal development opportunities for all citizens.

2017: Law 27418 was tabled.The purpose of this Law is to establish the regime for the promotion of the Argentine naval industry, whose main objectives include the development and sustainable growth of the Argentine Naval Industry in a participatory and competitive manner, in addition to promoting and encouraging design, engineering, the repair, transformation, maintenance and construction by the Argentine naval industry of vessels destined for fishing, sports, recreation, tugboats and all other vessels and naval devices according to the technical and objective capacity of this industry sector. The Law creates the Registry of Shipyards, Naval Workshops and Naval Engineering Studies located in the national territory.

Other notable Argentine Federal laws include:

  • Law on Industrial and Service Activities Waste Management (Law 25,612)
  • Law on National Environmental Policy (Law 25,675)
  • Law on Polychlorinated Biphenyls – Standards for Management and Elimination (Law 25,670)
  • Law on the use of Public Waters (Law 25,688)
  • Law on access to environmental information (Law 25,831)
  • Law on Residential Waste (Law 25,916)
  • Law on Environmental Protection of Native Forests (Law 26,331)
  • Law on Minimum Standards for the Control of Burn-Off Activities (Law 26,562)
  • Law on the Protection of Glaciers (Law 26,639)
  • Hazardous Waste Law (Law 24,051)

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • In December 2020: The office of Environmental Crimes and Special Laws launched an investigation into the mishandling of fracking waste by Comarsa, a waste company operating in the Vaca Muerta shale basin in northern Patagonia. Investigators claim that Comarsa has been accumulating and mishandling toxic fracking waste across many sites in the city of Neuquén. Environmental activists allege Argentine municipalities of colluding with Comarsa, according to a recently filed criminal complaint. Provincial authorities have failed to enforce Argentina’s Hazardous Waste Law, but have also helped Comarsa unlawfully expand their operations throughout the the country, using public lands to illegally dump toxic waste and produce what is colloquially referred to as a “toxic cocktail” – a deadly combination of heavy metals and radioactive waste.
  • The city of Corrientes exemplifies the intersections between environmental crime, human security and biosecurity. Corrientes serves as a hub of Argentina’s underground drug and animal trade. Investigators have reported an uptick of fauna trafficking as a result of the popularity of exotic pets in northern Argentina. Cocaine and cannabis are smuggled into Argentina from Paraguay and are distributed to other provinces such as Buenos Aires and Santa Fe. This practice goes hand in hand with human trafficking. In 2017: Approximately 400 human trafficking victims were identified and rescued in Corrientes, prompting an investigation into the trafficking recruitment centers across Argentina.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina: