Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 2/4 - 2/10/2012


Michael Moure, the CO of HidroAysén, presented the latest proposal for HydroAysén’s transmission line construction to the Council of Puerto Mont. Moure made light of concerns that construction of the line would clear cut forests, claiming these concerns were based on rumors. Moure insisted the transmission line was the best option for providing stability to the energy matrix, but acknowledged that there must be spaces for debate. HidroAysen expects to present its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the transmission line by the end of the second quarter ( 2/8/2012). Meanwhile, the EIA process for transmission lines related to another hydro dam, the 150 MW Los Cóndores dam near Talca, is already well advanced. (Diario Financiero 2/10/2012).

Chile’s recent energy crisis has invited further investment in geothermal energy alternatives generated from its belt of active and dormant volcanoes. Chile has always harnessed imported natural gas in conjunction with hydropower but recent droughts and interruptions in gas supplies have moved geothermal energy into the limelight.  Hot Rock, an Australian Energy company, has invested over $50 million dollars into future geothermal projects in Chile (The Santiago Times 2/9/2012). Further investment into Chile’s renewable energy sector will be made by AES Gener which has started the environmental review process for a  $572 million dollar solar farm project in the Antofagasta Region. The park will produce 220 MW of electricity with the goal of promoting the use of renewable resources for clean energy production (La Tercera 2/10/2012).

Public outcry and concern about thermoelectric development in northern Chile means that  US$5,000 million worth in projects may never see the light of day. As these projects haves stalled, questions are being raised about how this region and it’s energy-intensive mining sector will meet growing electricity demand. (Diario Financiero 2/10/2012).

Costa Rica

Pococi, Costa Rica, a small community of no more than 29 families will be the first rural community in Latin America to aim for carbon neutrality. Under the leadership of Anyelo Moya and Tony Arévalo, the community has implemented various environmental measures including biodigesters which treat waste and provide gas for cooking as well as a new plot of forest to aid in carbon sequestration. They have also created a successful greenhouse which allows the community to grow their own products rather than commuting to the next town over 10 km away ( 2/3/2012).

The Baulas National Park in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste finally has regulations in place to protect its natural habitat.  Decree No. 36918-Manaet will regulate public use areas, recreational activities, and designate restricted use areas in an effort to conserve terrestrial and marine habitats as the park is the nesting site of the leather back turtle.  The Park’s Tamarindo estuary was also declared a wetland of global importance by the Ramsar Convention. These new regulations seek to find a balance between nature and human activity as the park is a popular tourist destination (La Nación 2/8/2012).

American ecologist, Daniel H. Janzen was honored with the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award for his pioneering work in ecology and conservation biology on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Janzen plans to use the award to fund more taxonomy training for locals and further ecological development research. He stated, “If we do not act in time, man will be living in a broken world empty of life” (El País 2/7/2012).

Costa Rica’s national law for integrated waste management was passed in 2010, but two years later only four out of its eleven stipulations have been put into effect.  One of the most important contributions of the new law regards how to manage special waste including e-waste and tires. But because special waste has yet to be properly defined, the law has had little impact and most of these products continue to pile up in environmentally harmful landfills. The law has however, made progress in waste management plans for municipalities where half of the stipulations have been properly carried out (El Financiero 2/8/2012).


The Ramsar Convention will soon finalize its analysis of the impacts of the proposed Cabo Cortes tourism complex on Baja California’s Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park and present its recommendations to Mexico.   Since visiting the region in November, Ramsar has undertaken an in-depth analysis of the situation and all options remain on the table, including recommending that Mexico grant no further permits to the project. Meanwhile, civil society groups presented President Calderón with a letter demanding termination of the project. (El 2/5/2012).

A new energy forum, “Mexico Wind Power 2012”, will analyze the potential of Mexico’s burgeoning wind sector. In the last five years, investment for Mexican wind energy exceeded two billion dollars and is expected to reach 20 billion in the next decade. The forum will be sponsored by 21 companies expected to invest in the coming years in what Vice President Paul St. Amour from E.J. Krause for Latin America has dubbed, “a clear market opportunity for Mexico and Latin America” (Provincia 2/8/2012).

Mexico’s Secretary of Energy has hastened its efforts to begin exploration of Mexico’s shale gas reserves.  The Integrated Development of Infrastructure for the Natural Gas Market will be allocated $1.6 million dollars to initiate exploration studies to know the exact size and depth of the reserves. Officials from the secretary of energy have stated that they will explore these resources with all due haste to optimize economic growth ( 2/6/2012).

The Ramsar Convention has sited Mexico’s wetlands and mangrove systems as crucial to the protection of inland territories from environmental hazards like hurricanes and floods. They also serve vital natural filtration processes for multiple ecosystems. The country ranks number two in the world for wetland territory with over 9 million hectares. While 138 of these territories are on under protection, 50% are still not considered reserves (La Nación 2/3/2012). Many wetland territories still face harsh land degradation and drought. The Churince, a set of lakes that form part of Cuatro Ciénegas  Valley of Northern Mexico are currently facing extreme drought as their water levels continue to decline with no rain in sight ( 2/2/2012).  Meanwhile, in Oaxaca, the organization “Vive Mar” commemorated World Wetlands Day with a walking tour for local students and other environmentalists to raise awareness about wetland ecosystems (Ciudadanía 2/3/2012).


Chevron refuses to apologize for the damage caused by oil drilling in Ecuador’s Amazon territory from 1972-1990. The refusal comes on the grounds that Chevron will not claim responsibility for the damage done during this time period by Texaco (which Chevron purchased in 2001). Chevron has no current assets in Ecuador so Ecuador must collect awards abroad (The Washington Post 2/3/2012).

Polices forces in Panama cracked down violently on indigenous Ngöbe Buglé people protesting over mining and hydroelectric concessions in their territory.  Two Ngöbe Buglé were killed and dozens more injured before dialogue with the government was finally re-established (Mining Watch 2/8/2012). Following similar clashes last year, the government agreed to respect the indigenous group’s territory as hydroelectric and mining free lands.  This most recent clash erupted as Panama’s government appeared to renege on this agreement and the National Assembly dropped from consideration an article in the proposed new mining code that would cancel mining and hydro concessions in Ngöbe Buglé lands  (Ciam 2/2/2012).


Composed 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.