Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 12/10 - 12/16/2011

This is the last Latin America news summary before the New Year and the editorial team would like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday – ¡Felices Fiestas y Prospero Año Nuevo!


Renewable energy development made a lot of news in this week. Ireland-based company Mainstream Renewables announced the purchase of 32 new turbines to install at the “Negrete Cuel” wind farm, adding 34.5 MW to the main electric grid. (El Mostrador 12/9/2011) Mainstream also submitted the environmental impact assessment for a $250 million, 75MW solar plant called Solar Almonte. The project’s 270,000 photovoltaic panels would connect to the northern electric grid. (Diario Financiero 12/13/2011) A new 220-turbine wind project proposed in the Arauco region will transform the town of Lebu from a coal town to a “wind town.” The $1 billion project will be the largest wind farm in South America. (La Tercera 12/16/2011) Mining giant Barrick Gold inaugurated the Punta Colorada wind park in Chile’s Coquimbo region. The $50 million investment will have an installed capacity of 20 MW from 10 turbines, providing power to 10,000 families. (, via 12/14/2011) Over 40 international & Chilean scientists asked President Piñera to stop a new wind farm on Chiloe Island, due to its potential effects on endangered blue whales and other local wildlife. The project was approved in August. (Santiago Times 12/15/2011)

Demonstrations took place in the Aysén region’s capital city of Coyhaique, where residents marched and asked the Supreme Court to rule against the environmental approval of HidroAysén’s proposed dams. (Radio Universidad de Chile 12/11/2011) The Supreme Court asked lawyers appealing the dams’ approval to present their arguments on Friday, December 16. (Prensa Latina 12/16/2011) Various members of Parliament expressed their optimism that the Court would rule against HidroAysén. (Cá 12/15/2011)

A new collaboration between the Ministry of Environment, forestry giant Arauco and environmental NGO Ética en los Bosques aims to protect the endangered Darwin fox in the Nahuelbuta mountain range, in the BioBio and Araucanía regions. Bernardo Reyes, Director of Ética en los Bosques, stated: “we have a unique treasure in the Nahuelbuta Range which was the Blue Fox, the Fox of Dreams or the Guide to Magical Knowledge for the Mapuches,” an indigenous community. (La Tercera 12/14/2011)

Costa Rica

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla will travel to the 38th Summit of Heads of State of the Central American Integration System to discuss the impact of climate change on the region. Heavy rains in October cost Central America approximately $2 billion in losses. The regional leaders and delegations from multilateral financial institutions and developed world countries will discuss how to strengthen efforts to prevent disasters and climate change impacts. (La Nación 12/16/2011)

Expanding agriculture can drive away birds, but in Costa Rica researchers have found that birds and farmers can indeed co-exist. Managing farmland sustainably by planting a mixture of crop species and leaving some trees standing in the field can help sustain both birdlife and bring benefits to farmers. Based on ten years of data, the research found that traditional, low-intensity farms had more insect-eating, seed-dispersing and pollinating birds than industrialized farms. ( 12/15/2011)


Mexico’s national petroleum company, Pemex, is gearing up to increase gas shale exploration despite mounting evidence of the negative impacts of natural gas fracking techniques used to extract gas from shale rocks. Pemex plans to drill 175 wells by 2015 and hopes to operate 6,500 wells within fifty years. In the northern state of Coahuila, Pemex has been extracting 85,000 cubic meters of gas shale since February. An expert from the Instituto Tecnólogico y de Estudios Superiores in Monterrey, México, cautions against expanding gas shale exploration, noting that that fracking is very controversial and that the gas in Mexico is found in areas with little water. (IPS News 12/16/2011)

A study by Mexican researchers found that the real estate project Cabo Cortés will severely affect Cabo Pulmo National Park, located in Baja California Sur. They warn of the tremendous environmental impact in the area due to the large-scale tourism. (Once Noticias 12/16/11)

The Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico (Semarnat), Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, noted that the conclusions from the 17 Conference of the Parties (COP17) on Climate Change, in Durban, South Africa, are insufficient to safeguard the future of humanity but will allow progress in mitigating and adapting to this phenomenon. He reiterated that Mexico will intensify efforts in 2012 to comply with voluntary goals in the fight against climate change and demonstrate the capacity and leadership of the country to take the seat of Green Climate Fund. (Semarnat 12/12/11)

Mauricio Limón Aguirre, Assistant Secretary for Environmental Protection Management  at Semarnat reported that Phase I of the Plan for the Elimination of hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) in Mexico, will potentially eliminate 351 tones --a reduction of 30 percent of the national consumption-- of these pollutants , by 2018. (Semarnat 12/14/2011)


Federal prosecutors in Brazil filed an $11 billion suit against Chevron and Transocean Ltd. in response to last month’s deep water oil spill. During the spill nearly 3,000 barrels of oil poured into the waters off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state. The prosecutors pointed to a lack of environmental planning and management by the two companies. While the spill was small in comparison to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it has focused attention on the environmental risks posed by developing oil in Brazil’s deep water “subsalt region”. (CNN 12/15/2011) 

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.