Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 11/26 - 12/3/11


President Piñera signed an agreement with the state of Massachusetts last week to strength education, energy and biotechnology initiatives.  This alliance is similar to the partnership developed between Chile and California in the 1960’s which saw much success in the environmental field. Piñera highlighted Massachusetts’s dedication to these three crucial sectors during the meeting between the Doctoral Commission of National Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The accord hopes to strengthen partnerships between educational institutions and research centers in the future. (America Economia 12/1/2011)

The Citizen’s Coalition for Aysén Life Reserve announced their plans to revamp protests against the HidroAysén dam in Patagonia.  After several months without demonstrations, a number of organizations will take to the streets of Santiago in protest. This new march will last at least until the December 20th when the court announces their final decision regarding a recent investigation into the irregularities that may have lead to permit acquisitions for HidroAysén back in May. (Terram 11/30/2011)

The Department of Environmental Assessment issued its review of the Cuervo Hydroelectric Project in Aysén. The document comprised of 15 observations highlighted the need for continued investigation and assessment of the hydroelectric plant. If the project gains all sectoral and environmental approvals it will begin construction in the Aysén region in late 2012 on the hydro plant which is expected to generate 1,650 jobs and 640 Megawatts of energy. (Diario El Divisadero 11/34/2011)

A recent discovery unveiled over 80 perfectly preserved whale fossils in Chile’s Atacama desert. Thus far research shows that the fossils are over seven million years old. The fossils include adult and juvenile baleen whales, a walrus-whale, an extinct species of sperm whale, and possibly a seal or sea lion. The biggest obstacle toward unraveling the mysteries of these ancient species is that the area is under contract for a road building project and research but my complete by the end of the month before highway construction resumes. (Nature News Blog 11/18/2011)

Costa Rica

Firms within Costa Rica’s agricultural industry are pushing for carbon certifications on their products. Producers of livestock, coffee, bananas and pineapples claim that with so many entities claiming carbon neutrality recently, those that are actually carbon neutral are losing their competitive edge in the green market. In creating stricter regulations and associated carbon neutral certifications these companies hope to advance their products in the green global economy. (La Nación 12/1/2011)

The EARTH University of Costa Rica inaugurated its center for renewable energy, the first of its kind in Central America. The center is a joint project with the Berlin Institute, created to find solutions for energy issues in Central America. The center will train students and professionals throughout the region in the areas of hydro, solar, geothermal, wind and biomass technology which have been adopted to tropical conditions. (Revista Summa 12/1/2011)

The Civil and Administrative Law Branch of Costa Rica’s Supreme Court issued a ruling that annulled Industrias  Infinito’s concession to  operate the Las Crucitas gold mine near the border of Nicaragua. The decision is the result of an 18-year-struggle between environmental groups, Infinito, and the Costa Rican governments. The project was proposed in 1993, permitted in 2006, and soon put on hold due to strong environmental opposition. The court also annulled environmental permits and declarations, including a decree declaring the project in the public interest. (Tico Times 11/30/2011)

In the face of increasing energy needs, the government decided to  push forward proposed bills that would allow geothermal energy production by the national electric company  in the protected areas of Costa Rica’s volcanic mountain range in Guanacaste. Current law prohibits national parks from commercial development purposes but under the proposed legislation, energy would be labeled as a non-commercial public good and therefore development will be permitted. Costa Rica has the potential to generate 865 MW of geothermal energy but has only exploited 166 MW as the remaining sources are located on Indian reservations and within national parks and forest areas. (El Financiero CR 12/1/2011)


In the struggle to conserve Cabo Pulmo’s coral reef from threat of the mega hotel project, opponents will turn their pressure on President Felipe Calderon who prides himself on his ecological good will. The project was originally under control of the firm Hansa Urbana, but  following financial troubles the company was taken over by the Spanish central bank raising questions about the project’s future ownership.  In the uncertainty of where new owners will take this initiative, opponents of the development project continue to worry that they may still lose this biological gem. Exequiel Exurra, former president of the National Institute for Human Ecology stated, "In the coming year or two we are going to see all kinds of changes. Historically in Mexico, when attention turns elsewhere these kinds of rogue projects are approved." (Houston Chronicle 11/29/2011)

Greenpeace  accused Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) of inappropriate  contact with Hansa Urbana regarding the environmental permitting of the Cabo Cortés project.   This accusation came on the heels of Greenpeace’s discovery of internal ProMexico (Mexico’s investment and trade commission) emails that describe communication between SEMARNAT and Hansa Urbana.   SEMARNAT refuted the Greenpeace allegation stating that it did not inappropriately communicate with Hansa Urbana. (Milenio 11/25/2011)

Mexico’s Energy Minister Jordy Herrera continues to push exploitation of Mexico’s shale gas reserves as global energy consumption continues to create demand. This week, Herrera stated his intent to move forward in trade negotiations with the US. They will look to solidify cross-border hydrocarbon deposits, defined as the reserves which cross the US-Mexican border and could potentially be accessed from both sides. Thus far no agreement has been confirmed and Mexico remains focused on harvesting its national reserves. (Market Watch 12/1/2011)

This week’s news has been compiled by Amanda Wheat.

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.