Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 7/31 - 8/5/2011


Chile’s legal procedural authority, the Contraloría, denied that the water rights HidroAysén received from the General Water Directorate earlier this year were legally granted.  HidroAysén needs these water rights in addition to those it already owns in order to build its two proposed dams on the Baker River, which are part of a larger five-dam project.  (El Dínamo 8/3/2011)

Solar energy company Atacama Solar S.A. will build a “gigantic” solar farm in the Atacama Desert in Chile’s northern First Region.  The $773 million project will include 2,889,000 photovoltaic panels with an installed capacity of 250 MW that will be connected to the main northern grid.  Construction is expected to last five years, and will begin later this year.  (La Tercera  8/1/2011)

The first wind park on Chiloé Island was approved by the regional environmental authority.  The $235 million project, consisting of 56 aero-generators, would be able to generate 112 MW.  The company behind the proposal, Ecopower, says it will make the island a net exporter of energy, as Chiloé’s current demand is only 60 MW.  (El Mercurio 8/3/2011) Opponents of the wind farm argue that it will threaten local wildlife and that local indigenous communities who will be affected were not consulted beforehand.  (Santiago Times 8/4/2011)

The Citizen Parliamentary Committee on Energy is a newly-formed group that is making recommendations to government for a major overhaul of Chile’s energy system.  Comprised of members of Parliament, academics, technical experts and NGO leaders, the Committee presented their initial findings, which included topics such as competition in the electricity market and regulation of electricity rates, at a press conference on Monday.  They aim to present their final report to President Piñera in September.  (Santiago Times 8/3/2011)

A new $7 million conservation plan for the Juan Fernández Islands will protect the archipelago’s 131 unique plant species, 20 of which are endangered.  Located 400 miles off the coast of Valparaíso, the Islands are also home to 45 percent of Chile’s native birds.  The Terrestrial Biodiversity Conservation Plan for the Juan Fernández Archipelago aims to limit the threat of invasive species, and  its proponents hope to begin work by March 2012. (The Valparaíso Times 8/2/2011)

Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s new Environment and Energy Minister, Rene Castro announced a three year moratorium on oil exploitation in the country under an executive decree issued this week.  Castro noted the moratorium was necessary in order to fully assess the costs and benefits related to oil exploitation. The decree does not suspend any existing concessions and Castro clarified that the case of  Mallon Oil Company case must be examined individually.  Mallon Oil claims it has overcome all legal barriers to beginning exploration and exploitation and should now be able to move forward with its fossil fuel concession in northern Costa Rica.  (El Financiero 8/1/2011)

 One of the top priorities during a legislative extraordinary session called by President Chinchilla during August is consideration of an electric contingency law that would raise the current cap on private power generation.  Delays in the construction of the Diquis and Reventazon dams have recently raised concerns that Costa Rica may face demand constraints beginning in 2014. (El Financiero 8/1/2011)

In an Opinion piece in La Nación, former Costa Rican legislator Margarita Penón discussed the need to ensure that tourism development in the Osa Peninsula is low-impact and protects the region’s natural resources. Ms. Penón highlighted that massive tourism development in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica has not benefited local communities and led to environmental degradation.   She cautioned that Costa Rica should learn from these lessons and plan appropriately for sustainable tourism in the country. (La Nación 8/4/2011)


Climate change is reducing vital species population for humanity, such as those responsible for pollinating food crops, including bees and bats, according to reports from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), which could be considered as alarming. According to data from the same unit, in general, 90 percent of agricultural production comes from pollination.( 08/01/11)

Environmental groups, business associations, university professors, state and municipal officials as well as a large segment of the society from Baja California Sur have expressed their opposition to the Canadian mining company Vista Gold that seeks to extract gold using the open sky technique, through the project called “Concordia”, in the Biosphere Reserve of Sierra de La Laguna. The state's governor, Mark Covarrubias Villaseñor, warned that his state administration will not support projects that generate a negative impact on the natural resources of Baja California Sur. Also, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) highlighted the land where the project is planned to be built is public property and it is under  the process of being considered part of the natural protected area of the Sierra de La Laguna and will not stop the procedure. (La Crónica 08/02/11); (Tribuna de Los Cabos 08/05/11)

Octavio Aburto Oropeza, Mexican marine biologist working at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), has studied the case of Cabo Pulmo the last 15 years. He indicates that this reef is the best preserved in Mexico and the size and quantity of its fishes has increase by 400% thanks to the conservation model of nearby communities. He also criticized the Spanish tourist project, which seeks to build hotels with 30,000 rooms, 2.50 miles from the reef, because it benefits a non-sustainable model of tourism and threatens one of the most important environmental heritages of America. (La Crónica 07/30/11)

The Ministry of Finance has approved the investment project of 455 million pesos to build the expansion of the Desalination Plant of Cabo San Lucas, which could obtain another 200 liters per second and thereby strengthening potable water supply in colonies from Cabo San Lucas port, said the general director of the Municipal System Operator of Water and Sewage from Los Cabos, José Manuel Castro Curiel. (El Occidental 08/02/11)


On Thursday, the Andean Community announced that the Electricity Regulating Organisms (GTOR) from Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are meeting to discuss the possibility of inter-connecting their countries’ electric grids.  (La Nación 8/4/2011)

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.

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