Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 7/2- 7/6/2012


The Spanish company, Solarpack, was chosen by the mining company, Collahuasi, to provide 60,000 megawatt hours per year of solar energy to the mining site.  Solarpack will construct two solar plants within 180 hectares in Pozo Almonte, which have already been given environmental approval. This project is just one of ten solar initiatives that the company is developing, which will produce an estimated total of more than 150 megawatts of energy and total nearly $450 million in investment. The company’s CEO, Javier Arellano, said that the price of solar is a very attractive and competitive with other technologies (Diario Financiero 7/4/2012).

Important regulations and recent government sanctions might impede the development of two large energy projects despite having received environmental permission.  A large thermoelectric complex owned by Codelco and the Castilla thermoelectric project owned by MPX are facing new setbacks. In the case of the Codelco project, the sanctioning process has been reopened due to alleged non-compliance by the company regarding the environmental qualifications resolution, among other complaints. In the case of the Castilla development, the city council of Copiapo unanimously approved a new land use requirement in an area of ​​Punta Cachos where the project is to be located. The new measure states that only harmless and clean industries may inhabit the area, therefore, if the Supreme Court decides that the project must reapply for approval, it may be rejected (Diario Financiero 7/4/2012).

A new study in the Aysen wildlife reserves reveals that 140 huemul deer currently inhabit the region. Using radio collars, rangers can track the deer and detect their movements and behaviors. This is currently one of the largest studies on this animal and it has inspired similar studies in other national reserves around the country. The huemul is an endangered species, and a national symbol of Chile.  (La Tercera 7/1/2012).

New data reports that in the 2011-2012 forest fire season, 91,261 hectares burned, which is the highest amount in the last ten years. This figure surpasses the annual average by 75 percent. Agriculture Minister, Luis Mayol, announced the approval of a new law to increase penalties for those causing forest fires and the need to raise awareness about the environmental and material damage caused by fires. Mayol highlighted the creation of the Technical Coordination Committee to help prevent and fight forest fires and said that although there were many incidences, fortunately damages were minimal (La Tercera 7/5/2012).  

Costa Rica 

The Fourth Court ruled that the Vulnerability Matrix, which applies in Poas, Alajuela to protect water resources from pollution, is applicable to all of Costa Rica. This decision impacts the Las Baulas National Marine Park case and real estate development in its Playa Grande beach area. Leatherback turtles, which are endangered, nest in Playa Grande where authorities have been permitting the construction of homes, hotels and other real estate projects. Developers and some government officials have tried to overturn application of the Vulnerability Matrix in the area and called for a new measure that does not include land use regulations. However, the court decision now confirms that the matrix will be used to analyze all potential projects where water resources may be in danger (El Pais 7/5/2012).  

With the planting of the 4,615,518th tree on Wednesday, the national biodiversity institute, INBioparque, has now planted one tree for every resident of Costa Rica according to the National Institute of Statistics and Census. The “Cristóbal” planted is considered an endangered species in Costa Rica. To date, the National Forestry Fund protects approximately 795,000 hectares of forest (Inside Costa Rica 7/5/2012).


The Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, traveled to Baja California to meet with the people of Cabo Pulmo to explain the federal government's decision to cancel the project Cabo Cortés, which was announced by the President Felipe Calderon on June 15. Quesada noted the widespread determination to protect the environment at Cabo Pulmo and thanked the people who were active participants in defending and preserving the marine wildlife reserve (La Semarnat 7/5/2012). 

On July 4th, the National Advisory Committee approved a draft of the Mexican Official Standard which aims to match the fuel consumption of light-weight vehicles in the US by 2016. The Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, said that with the implementation of this measure, 170 million tons of carbon dioxide will be saved and gasoline consumption will decrease by 70 billion gallons by 2030. The regulatory proposal corresponds to the US standard that is currently in effect.  (La Semarnat 7/5/2012).

Vestas Wind Systems announced that it received an order for 50 megawatts worth of wind turbines for the Los Altos wind power plant in Jalisco, Mexico. The order was placed by Grupo Dragón for the Los Altos power plant, which is expected to have total annual production of 180MW, roughly equal to the residential energy consumption of 380,000 people. The contract includes delivery, installation and commissioning of the turbines and they are expected to be online by the second quarter of 2013 (Business News Americas 7/4/2012).

With the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy in the US set to expire by the end of the year, many investors are looking to Latin America and Mexico in particular to launch new wind projects. Mexico is an attractive launching off point because the financing community is familiar with the electricity sector's structure. Clear rules regarding costs that did not exist years ago are encouraging new firms to explore the possibility (Business News Americas 4/5/2012).


Argentina’s Supreme Court revoked a lower court decision that suspended a national glacier-protection law. In November 2010, a federal judge in the San Juan province suspended six key provisions of the newly enacted Glacier Act after the constitutionality of the law was questioned. The suspended articles called for the government to take inventory of the present glaciers, study the environmental impact of ongoing economic activities in the province, and block any activities deemed to contribute to the destruction of glaciers. The July 3rd Supreme Court decision will immediately reverse these injunctions and the Glacier Act will immediately be in full effect. The government is required to uphold all the requirements outlined by the law beginning with a mandatory evaluation of all the glaciers in the country. Mining projects such as Barrick Gold Corporation’s $3.3 billion-$3.6 billion Pascua-Lama mine will have to conduct an inventory of glacial ice at the mine site before proceeding with construction (The Argentina Independent 7/3/2012, Fox Business News 7/3/2012). 


This week’s news was compiled by Emily Jovais.

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.