Santiago, March 27, 2011. - Given the recent decision by the Group CAP to withdraw the Cruz Grande thermoelectric power plant project from the Environmental Impact Assessment System in Chile, Oceana expressed its satisfaction and called on the Government to speed up the designation of the Multiple-Use Marine and Coastal Protected Area in La Higuera and Chañaral Island in Northern Chile.
The Cruz Grande project involved the construction of a 300 MW thermoelectric power plant in the commune of La Higuera, Region of Coquimbo, in Northern Chile, a few kilometers away from the Choros-Damas and Chañaral island marine reserves, and near the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, known to shelter the world’s largest population of Humboldt penguins, communities of bottlenose dolphins, marine otters and many marine birds and mammals, including blue whales. The project began the required proceedings on June 6th 2008 and had to respond to the last comments by March 31st.
“We appreciate the withdrawal of this coal-fired energy project. However, there is still the need to promote the sustainable development of this area that continues to lag behind, from an economic point of view. The decision to establish a marine protected area to ensure the preservation of diverse ecosystems and to promote economic activities with lower environmental impacts is the best way to benefit local communities,” stated Alex Muñoz, Oceana’s Executive Director in Chile.
This past July Oceana submitted a proposal before the regional bureau of the Chilean Ministry of the Environment in Coquimbo and Atacama, to create a Multiple-Use Marine and Coastal Protected Area in the communes of La Higuera and Freirina. The proposal is the result of efforts made by Oceana with the support of researchers from the Universidad Católica del Norte, the Center for Advanced Studies in Arid Areas (Ceaza), and three scientific at-sea expeditions conducted by this group in the area proposed for protection.
Finally, Oceana called the Government to effectively promote renewable energy sources to gradually replace coal-fired power plants. The NGO has warned on the negative effects of large amounts of CO2 emissions, heavy metals (including mercury) and particulate matter emitted into the atmosphere, as well as the rise of the ocean’s water temperature as a result of its use to cool the thermoelectric power plant and which is then discharged back into the ocean at high temperatures. All of this modifies the normal behavior of marine ecosystems, resulting in imbalances that threaten the conservation of the areas’ biodiversity and the many resources that sustain local communities.
“Chile has huge renewable energy sources, including wind and the sun, which can be used without a considerable increase in electricity costs. However, it is mandatory for the Government to promote legal modifications to make this a feasible option, especially introducing the goal of 20% of non-conventional renewable energies by 2020,” Muñoz stated.