Latin America Green News: Chile considers compensating communities, Costa Rica pushes forward with refinery plans, Mexico legislators call for renewables
Posted August 16, 2013
Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.
August 10-16, 2013
Energía Austral, the company behind the second largest project proposed for Patagonia, is considering building the transmission line it needs to connect to the central electric grid entirely underwater. The underwater option would be more expensive, but according to the company would have a lower environmental impact than constructing a 600 km aboveground line. If the company decides to go this route it would essentially invalidate the existing agreement with HidroAysén to share a land corridor where they would construct their parallel lines. (El Mercurio 8/15/2013)
Chile’s new regulation for the Environmental Impact Evaluation System (SEIA), raises the standard for the type of information projects must submit, according to Ignacia Benítez, Minster of the Environment. According to Benítez, the new standard is expected to cut down the processing time for new projects. The minister also spoke about HidroAysén, noting that a high percentages of the comments filed regarding the project have already been analyzed and that resolution should be reached soon. (Diario Financiero 8/14/2013)
The government will once again consider the possibility of creating system whereby large electricity projects provide compensation to local communities to mitigate the impact of infrastructure development. The initiative was initially proposed under the former Administration as a means to avoid litigation of large projects. The new proposal presented in the Senate Commission on Energy and Mining would establish that thermoelectric projects pay municipalities a certain amount to finance a compensation plan. The compensation plan would be developed by a working group composed of the electric company, regional government and local communities. ( La Tercera 8/15/2013)
A recent analysis done on air quality in Costa Rica shows that the country has reduced its levels of PM 10 to a level acceptable to the standards set forth by the World Health Organization, but PM 2.5 levels persist in being extremely high. The analysis, conducted by the Laboratory of Environmental Analysis of the National University (UNA), detected the presence of multiple substances such as sulfate, nitrate, and phosphate, among others, all of which affect human health if found in concentrations higher than 25 micrograms per square meter. Such health effects include arteriosclerosis, respiratory diseases in children and problems in cognitive function and premature births. The study also found that vehicles over the age of 15 are the largest contributors of these contaminates at 70%; these vehicles represent 50% of the country’s fleet. (El Financiero 8/13/2013).
The Costa Rican government is moving forward with developing plans to modernize the oil refinery plant in Moín, Limón, under the leadership of Littleton Bolton, the recently appointed president of the Costa Rican Oil Refinery. The project, which costs $1,500 million, will remain a priority for President Laura Chinchilla’s administration, claims Carlos Roverssi, the Minister of Communications. Bolton will be presenting a “plan B” on how to fix the weaknesses in the feasibility studies identified by Comptroller General of the Republic and published June 20th of this year. (La Nación 8/14/2013).
The Constitutional Court has ordered René Castro, the Minister of Environment, and Etilma Morales, the Director of the Osa Conservation Area, to clarify the measures taken to reduce illegal hunting and logging in the Gulfo Dulce Forest Reserve, in the southern region of Costa Rica. This mandate is a result of multiple complaints filed by farmer Alcides Araya and Deputy Claudio Monge, representative of the Citizen Action Party in 2012. The complainants did not receive any indication from the governmental groups that action was being taken to mitigate the illegal activities, although the governmental groups have assured the Constitutional Court that they have done so. The Court stated that the complainants should have been notified of these actions. Illegal hunting endangers the preservation of animals such as jaguars, deer, peacocks and other species that make the Forest Reserve their home. (El Financero 8/13/2013).
According to Álvaro Sánchez Crispín, an investigator from the Geographical Institute at UNAM, Los Cabos is the most environmentally affected tourism zone in Mexico. Due to the subdivisions, hotels, condos, and the 19 golf courses that are green all year round, the inhabitants around the area are suffering from a lack of water. Sánchez Crispín says the problem comes from not utilizing geographical data and planning when proposing each individual tourism project. Sánchez Crispín emphasizes the need of adequate data studies as well as the need to diversify the tourism sector to include areas other than beaches. (Crónica 8/13/2013).
Legislators are asking the president to include the production and use of renewable energy sources and not just on hydrocarbons in the energy reform proposal, hoping that elevating this topic will garner support from the government and Congress for renewable energy policies and development. Erick Marte Rivera Villanueva, president of the Special Commission of Renewable Energy makes it clear that future generations should not be relying on oil but renewable energy sources which are cleaner and cheaper. Garco Ramírez, governor of Morelos, agrees saying that the country already provides too much money to Petróleos Mexicanos for its oil. The Commission is currently waiting for the go ahead from President Enrique Peña Nieto to change its National Institute of Ecology to the Institute of Ecology and Development of Renewable Energy. (El Economista 8/14/2013)
The Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC) is creating a strategy geared towards managing and organizing territories to better equip them against natural disasters. The study combines research from the Science and Social Science Departments with the goal of mitigating human and material loss in the face of a natural disaster. José Luis Fermán Almada and Carlos Figuero Beltrán of the Marine Science department both participated in this study and express the need to notify the general public of the potential danger of specific areas. A public notification would prevent settlements of people in areas with the highest potential of disaster and also prepare people on how to react if one occurs. The study focuses on many areas including the coastal regions, such as Cabo Pulmo, as well as the aquaculture and agriculture zones of San Quintín. (Uniradio Informa 8/13/2013).