Climate, Energy and Environment News from Latin America: 1.17 - 1.21.2011


President Piñera made cabinet changes this week, replacing energy minister Ricardo Raineri with Laurence Golborne who also holds a position as the mining minister.  Raineri was recently criticized for not properly anticipating the mass demonstrations that resulted from the decision to lower natural gas subsidies in the Magallanes region.  (El Mercurio, 1/17/11)  After assuming Raineri’s responsibilities, Golborne negotiated a deal with the Magallanes Citizen Assembly that included a 3% cut in subsidies, as  opposed to the initial 16.8% cut which ignited the protests. (Radio Polar, 1/19/11) The agreement also stated that beginning March 1 a technical advisory committee will work to propose a new system of gas price regulation for Magallanes. (La Tercera, 1/19/11)

President Piñera signed the final version of the bill to regulate air emissions from power plants. (El Mercurio, 1/19/11)  The final draft for the bill presented weakened standards for the overall limits on air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.  However it moved up the deadline for plants to comply with the new restrictions by six months with costs estimated at $1.5 billion. (El Mercurio, 1/20/11)

Potable water is expected to disappear from Arica in Northern Chile in the next ten years due to scarce rains and pressure on water resources from mining and agricultural activities.  A desalinization plant has been proposed to provide water for the area’s nearly 200,000 residents, however concerns exist regarding the cost of the desalinization process.  (El Mercurio, 1/19/11)

The Supreme Court ruled that Shell Chile will have to pay the Chilean State 120 million pesos in environmental damages (US $244,000) caused north of the city of Antofagasta.  The pollution was due to operational deficiencies of oil pipelines and storage tanks. (El Mercurio, 1/19/11)

A multinational energy plan with Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru could reduce energy costs in Chile, which currently has the highest energy costs in the region.  It could also benefit Chilean energy companies in reaching President Piñera’s 20-20 plan to produce 20% of the nation’s energy through renewable energy sources by 2020. (El Mercurio, 1/20/11)

Costa Rica:

Infinito Gold, the Canadian company involved in the Crucitas Gold Mine case, filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Costa Rica against the ruling made by the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo which annulled the mining concession granted to the company.  (Canada NewsWire, 1/18/11)

The National Company of Power and Light announced that they will open up 22 electric car charging stations in the San Jose Metropolitan area. There are currently 260 electric vehicles in the country. (Inside Costa Rica, 1/20/11)

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released guidelines on global bycatch and reducing the number of discarded fish, which were agreed to by experts from 35 countries including Costa Rica.  The guidelines must now be submitted for approval by the Committee on Fisheries, set to meet in Rome at the end of the month. (El Financiero CR, 1/17/11)  Previously the Costa Rican Institute of Fishing and Aquatic Life had declared the Gulfo Dulce a Marine Area for Responsible Fisheries, the largest in Central America with 750 square miles, (El Financiero CR, 6/14/10) and fisherman in the zone had already eliminated trawling. (El Financiero CR, 6/10/09)


The bill to replace conventional light bulbs with energy saving bulbs has been stopped by the PRI and PAN fractions.  Deputies are flabbergasted that President Calderon made an official decree announcing the standards when his own party was responsible for putting a stop to the bill. (Milenio, 1/18/11)

The Mexican Federal Government made an amendment to the NOM-O59 standard to ensure the protection of species, which provides a 0.9% increase in the number of species protected. (Planeta Azul, 1/19/11) A recent publication released by SEMARNAT reported that endangered species in Mexico have increased by 25% since 2001. (Jornada, 1/18/11)

The Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources of the state of Guerrero, Sabás de la Rosa Camacho, announced that environmental crimes such as deer hunting, the capture of sea turtles, and deforestation are persisting; consequently the state’s surveillance operations will be strengthened. (Notimex, 1/20/11)

Note: The linked articles and excerpts in this post are provided for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Natural Resources Defense Council.