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NEWS: Chilean court lifts suspension order on HidroAysen dam project

Major protests against HidroAysen have rocked Chile

Major protests against HidroAysen have rocked Chile

A Chilean court of appeals has lifted another court’s suspension of the deeply unpopular HidroAysén project in the Patagonia region of Chile.

The court ruling: Reuters reports this afternoon, “A Chilean appeals court lifted a suspension order on Thursday that will allow work to proceed on the $3.5 billion HidroAysen hydropower project… The appeals court in the southern city of Puerto Montt had issued the suspension order in June after legal injunctions filed by opponents of the project.” In June, the New York Times reported, “A Chilean appeals court suspended a plan to build five dams and hydroelectric plants in the country’s Patagonia region. The court ruling came in response to actions filed by environmental groups and legislators arguing that the government commission that approved the $3.2 billion dam project last month had not taken into account a technical review. The ruling temporarily halts the government’s approval process for the project, which set off large protests around the country in recent weeks. Opponents applauded the ruling, hoping it was a step toward scuttling it altogether.”

The transmission lines: Today’s Reuters article adds, “HidroAysen is a joint venture between leading generator Endesa Chile END.SN and partner Colbun COL.SN which will comprise five power stations and plans to generate 2,750 megawatts by damming two major rivers. …The project still requires a permit for a more than 1,250-mile (2,000-Km) transmission line to carry the 2,750 megawatts generated from deep in southern Patagonia to the capital Santiago.” The Guardian has reported, “Environmentalists predict more damage (from) transmission lines, which face a separate environmental review in December (now likely later).” Transelec – the Chilean company that would most likely build the transmission line, which requires an 80-metre wide logged corridor through 14 national parks, nature reserves and conservation areas – is controlled by Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and the British Columbia Investment Management Corp.

The Council of Canadians: In February 2008, the Council of Canadians began voicing its opposition to the proposed dams and transmission line. The Council is demanding that the involved Canadian pension funds reject the HidroAysén project. In May 2011, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, “Canadians support democracy, freedom of expression, and responsible environmental stewardship at home and around the world. But most Canadians have no idea that their pension plans are fuelling the kind of environmental destruction planned in Chile. In a global world, what can seem far away may be very close to home. Canadians must stand with the people of Chile in opposing this terrible project and condemning the undemocratic and violent actions of the state.”

The project’s relationship to mining: “Chile, the world’s top copper producer, is seeking to boost and diversify its power grid to confront rising energy needs and drought-induced energy shortages…” As noted in previous campaign blogs, the Council of Canadians is commissioning a report on the dam, the transmission lines and Canadian mining companies in Chile (we coincidentally received the draft report earlier today), and is planning a fact-finding mission to Chile for the late-fall (now likely late-2011, early-2012).

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