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Denée Reaves’s Blog

Latin America Green News: Rare Orcas Reappear in Chile, Spawning Sea Turtles Need Protection in Costa Rica, Trees get Their Day in Mexico, a New Geothermal Fund for Latin America

Denée Reaves

Posted July 12, 2013

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

July 7-12, 2013

Chile

Scientists report that they may have re-discovered a rare species of killer whale in Chilean Antarctic waters, once thought extinct. The siting of unusual-looking orcas by Chilean fishermen in 2005 launched an investigation into whether these were a rare breed or a different species. Researchers finally confirmed that the characteristics of the killer whales matched those of the elusive “Type-D” orca, which was last seen on New Zealand’s coast in 1955. (The Santiago Times 7/8/2013)

Members of Chile’s lower house of Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, surprised many this week when they rejected key parts of a bill which would “fast-track” proposed transmission and distribution lines. The parts they objected to, which were written and passed by the Senate last week, dealt with sensitive issues including whether the bill met the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Convention 169 on prior consultation for indigenous communities, among others. A mixed committee from the Senate and Chamber of Deputies will meet next week to address these issues, before the bill returns to both houses for another vote. (El Mercurio 7/10/2013; Business News Americas by subscription only 7/11/2013)

Due to climate change impacts Chile is feeling and will continue to feel through 2050, as identified in a study by the University of Chile, the Ministry of Environment has drafted a Climate Change Adaptation Plan that is currently in the public consultation period. The plan focuses on strategic responses to climate change in agriculture, livestock, forestry, biodiversity, fisheries, health, water resources and infrastructure. (The Santiago Times 7/12/2013)

Costa Rica

As sea turtle mating and spawning season gets underway in Costa Rica, the government and conservationists are preparing to fight off poachers looking to harpoon the sea turtles for profit and meat. Luis Rojas, Director of the Tortuguero National Park (of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, and the National Parks System), said that June, July and August are the months in which they see the most poaching activity. Due to the many illegal acts perpetrated during sea turtle spawning season, particularly along the country’s Caribbean coast, the Vice-Minister of Water and Seas announced that the Ministry of Environment is preparing a Comprehensive Strategy for the Protection of Costa Rica’s Sea Turtles, which will be presented soon. (El Pais 7/11/2013)

Rolando Castillo Munoz, winner of the National Geology Prize in 2013, is drawing a new map of Costa Rica, based on the chemical composition of the land. He has already covered 50 percent of the country, taking soil samples every 100 square kilometers, and expects to complete the rest of the country within a year.  With this information, Castillo Munoz hopes to create a national map outlining the best use of the soil in each area, providing information to the public and to decision makers about what kinds of human activities the land can support. (El Financiero 7/11/2013)

The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) will invest $122 million in the Rio Macho hydroelectric plant, to upgrade the infrastructure and expand its generating capacity from 20 MW to 140 MW. The renovation would boost the plant’s annual output to 570 GWh – the equivalent of 228,000 households. (La Nacion 7/12/2013)

Mexico

Sabadell Bank is now looking to propose the project “Los Pericúes” in Cabo Pulmo to the new Peña Nieto Administration, which would be the equivalent of the failed Cabo Cortés project proposed by Hansa Urbana. Despite the fact that the current Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Juan José Guerra Abud, confirmed the 2012 decision made by ex-President Felipe Calderón to permanently cancel the Cabo Cortés project due to its high environmental effects, Sabadell Bank will be proposing its project for review. (Arena Pública 7/10/2013)

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) met this week in Baja California Sur, Mexico. While there, the three countries –Mexico, the United States and Canada– addressed three major environmental challenges facing North America: contamination caused by the transportation sector, climate change, and moving dangerous waste. During the discussion, it was decided that all standards, projects and initiatives must be uniform between the three countries to produce a high level of change.  Other topics discussed were the many projects, such as green buildings, helping communities devastated by hurricanes, the two new tools to help citizens with the CEC petition process, including a new online portal and a tool to track the petition and ensure it is following all appropriate guidelines, and finally the next Council Session (taking place in Canada), where the CEC will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Agreement of Environmental Cooperation. (CEC 7/12/2013)

Renewable energy companies representing France, Spain, and the United States have initiated studies in Yucatán to determine the potential of its resources for wind, PV and tidal energy. David Alpizar Carrillo, the Secretary of Economic Development, says that many of these companies, as well as national ones, have determined that conditions are favorable for renewable energy in Yucatán, and he has already heard back from a number of different companies on PV and tidal wave projects. The first wind park in the Yucatán peninsula is set to start operations in 2014. Alpizar Carrillo has noted that they will be taking into account how the marine life would be affected for any tidal projects that may arise. (Milenio 7/6/2013)  

According to Francisco Barnés de Castro, the local regulatory commissioner of energy, Mexico is not ready to make significant changes in its renewable energy laws. Barnés explained that they don’t currently have the capacity to do so as the energy sector is focused on reforming its oil sector and cannot do both at the same time. He think necessary changes should occur to facilitate differences in the renewable energy laws for next year, such as allowing regulatory commissioners to monitor the electricity rates, and have the Federal Electricity Commission begin to pay the costs of the fossil fuel generation to motivate renewable energy projects. (Business News Americas by subscription only, 7/10/2013)

In honor of Tree Day, Veracruz’s Secretary of Environment, Víctor Alvarado Martínez emphasized the state’s commitment to protecting, restoring and preserving its forests. The government will create a Forestry Merit Award to recognize those who have participated in actions to restore, conserve and protect the forests. Tree Day in Mexico was started under President Adolfo López Mateos’ administration in 1959, and is celebrated on the second Thursday every July. (El Golfo 7/10/2013)

Regional

The Latin American and Caribbean development bank CAF is collaborating with the European Commission and the German development funder KfW to create a geothermal fund designed to help mitigate the financial obstacles that geothermal projects face during both the initial drilling phase and the subsequent development stage. The fund will focus on Latin American countries with significant recognized potential for geothermal energy: Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. (Business News Americas by subscription only 7/10/2013; CAF – Banco de Desarrollo de América Latina 6/20/2013)  

For more news on the issues we care about visit our Latin America Green 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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