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Latin America Green News: Chilean wines go green, Mexican sea turtle deaths go up, Peruvian glaciers go GLOF

Amanda Maxwell

Posted March 25, 2013 in Living Sustainably, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places, The Media and the Environment

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Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.

March 17 - 22, 2013

Chile

HidroAysén, the company intending to build a 2,750 megawatt dam project on two rivers in Patagonia, announced that it would not present the environmental impact study for its transmission line until the end of 2014, in the most optimistic of scenarios. The company has not shown clarity about how it would move forward since parent company Colbún announced in May 2012 that it recommended halting work on the project. Among the reasons given for the delayed timeline, HidroAysén cited the need to re-evaluate the baselines and other technical studies needed for the transmission line’s environmental impact assessment. At the same time, Chile’s government announced that the Committee of Ministers, which is supposed to rule on the 58 appeals filed against HidroAysén’s dams’ approval, will likely not make a decision this year. Filed in the middle of 2011 and originally set for 2012, the appeals case is viewed as too politically unpopular for the government to take a stance. (Economía y Negocios 3/19/2013, 3/21/2013)

The first stone was laid in the Pampa Elvira Solar project in Antofagasta, a $26 million investment by the Chilean-Danish consortium Energía Llaima-Sunmark. The complex will produce 51,800 MWht annually, allowing the Gaby Mine to replace 85 percent of its diesel fuel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15,000 tons of CO2 each year. Officials expect Pampa Elvira Solar to be operational during the second semester of 2013. (La Segunda 3/15/2013)

Executive Director of the Chilean Renewable Energy Association (ACERA), Carlos Finat, spoke to the Energy and Mining Commission in the Chamber of Deputies of ACERA’s support for the proposed “20-20 law”, which would mandate that 20 percent of Chile’s energy generation come from renewable sources b 2020. He argued against the executive branch’s recent statements that the law would be too difficult to achieve, saying it is both technically feasible and economically beneficial. He further said that the “20 by 2020” goal would allow renewables to compete in upcoming distribution tenders. (Cámara de Diputados de Chile 3/21/2013)

Community members in Puchuncaví and La Greda fear that the opening of the new coal-fired power plant in AES Gener’s Ventanas will create even higher levels of industrial pollution in the already-saturated area. The addition of the new 270 MW plant will make AES Gener’s Ventanas complex the largest coal power plant in Chile, at 885 MW. (El Mercurio de Valparaiso via Terram.cl 3/20/2013)

High energy costs and low water levels are pushing Chilean winemakers to invest in innovative ways to run their wineries. The Morandé winery has installed solar panels at its Añade vineyard, and is assessing the feasibility of using solar energy at other vineyards, too. The De Martino winery says it has already achieved savings by using energy more efficiently, and is looking to optimize insulation and natural light uses. The Montes winery also reports considerable savings after employing various energy efficiency strategies. (Diario Financiero 3/15/2013)

Mexico

The city of Cancun will be host to the 2013 Solar World Congress during November 3-17th this year, making it the first time the congress will be held in a Latin American nation. The 50 year-old Congress will be attended by over 110 countries and organizations, such as the International Agency of Energy and the International Agency of Renewable Energy. At this year’s event, the congress will encourage energy reforms among member countries, pushing governments to make the transition to renewable energies as soon as possible. (Tiempo en Linea 3/20/13)

The Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA), the Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG) as well as international experts have contacted President Enrique Peña Nieto about the already high and growing mortality rate of sea turtles off the coast of Baja California Sur. According to CEMDA, more than 2,000 turtles died in 2012 – a 600 percent increase from the mortality rates in the past few years – placing it among the highest turtle mortality rates in the world. Many of these deaths can be associated with high levels of accidental kills associated with small-scale fishing in the Gulf of Ulloa. (Hispanically Speaking New 3/13/13)

At the Fourth High Level Dialogue between Mexico and the European Union (EU), Marie-Anne Coninsx, the head of the EU’s delegation, recognized President Peña Nieto for the country’s new environmental policies. Among the advances highlighted in the meeting was Mexico’s recent adoption of the Climate Change Law. At the meeting, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources also announced a new forest program which would plant 180 million trees to increase the awareness among Mexicans of the need to manage forest resources sustainably and rationally. (El Economista 3/19/13).

Regional

Mountainous communities in the Andes have been experiencing climate change’s impacts on glaciers first hand, as melting glaciers are increasingly causing dramatic flooding events that can threaten communities. The Risk Management Office in the Peruvian municipality of Huaraz recently warned that water levels in the glacial Palcacocha Lake are again at record highs, indicating that the lake’s walls –formed by loose rocks and debris—could rupture and cause a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF). If it were to happen, the equivalent of 240,000 Olympic swimming pools (approximately 17 million cubic meters of water) would rush down the valley and to the city of Huaraz, home to over 110,000 people. The threat of the GLOF has citizens calling on the government to take preemptive action. (E&E News, Climatewire 3/14/2013)

For more news on the issues we care about visit our Latin America News archive or read our other International blogs

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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