Following Chilean President Sebastiàn Piñera’s recent announcement stating that he requested Suez Energy to relocate its Barrancones thermoelectric coal-fired power plant, Oceana welcomed the decision which came two days after the Regional Environmental Committee (Corema) of the Coquimbo Region approved the project by 15 votes against 4.
“We congratulate the President for preventing this plant from being built in La Higuera. This decision mends an error that would have caused irreversible damage to an extremely rich ecosystem, as well as to the livelihoods of local communities who depend on its natural resources. We must feel very proud of this achievement, which resulted from the massive and pacific demonstrations in favor of a major environmental and social cause”, stated Alex Muñoz, Vice President for Oceana’s South American Office.
Oceana, along with local organizations such as the Environmental Protection Movement (Movimiento de Defensa del Medio Ambiente - MODEMA), have been working to prevent the approval of the mentioned thermoelectric coal-fired power plant due to its environmental impacts on nearby marine ecosystems and on the quality of life of adjacent communities. Last July, Oceana submitted a proposal to create a Multiple-Use Marine and Coastal Protected Area in La Higuera and Isla Chañaral before the Coquimbo Region’s Environmental Agency (CONAMA). The proposal reveals scientific and socioeconomic findings supporting the need to protect the area from the impact of coal-fired power plants and instead to promote the development of sustainable activities with local communities as the main implementers and beneficiaries.
Additionally, last week Oceana and Modema sent the Governor of Coquimbo, Sergio Gahona, and the members of the Corema, a legal report setting forth the flaws found in the Environmental Impact Assessment study (EIA) for the project, which fails to meet basic legal standards and requirements. The legal report also reveals juridical flaws in the final decisions made by several of the relevant agencies which stated their approval of this EIA, even though it falls short on the conditions for approval previously presented by the same public agencies.
The Barrancones coal-fired thermoelectric power plant (600 MW), a project presented by the Franco-Belgian Suez Energy corporation, was planned to be built in an area nearby Punta de Choros, only a few miles away from the Marine Reserves of Choros-Damas and Isla Chañaral, and from the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, know to shelter the world’s largest populations of Humboldt penguins, bottlenose dolphins, marine otters and many other marine birds and mammals, such as blue whales.
Oceana calls for a revision of the other coal-fired power plants which are currently undergoing environmental assessment processes in Chile. “Let’s not forget that another coal-fired power plant project is being assessed for La Higuera, in addition to 10 more at a national level. This is the perfect time to prompt a debate on domestic energy policies for the future and to take solid steps towards renewable energy sources. Chile has unbeatable natural conditions for the development of renewable energies”, ended Muñoz.