Chalillo Dam

PRESS RELEASE Canadian power company gets failing grade from Belizeans

May 2, 2006
Fortis monopoly fails to deliver low-cost power, environmental compliance.

At today’s annual meeting in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canadian power giant, Fortis, will inform shareholders of its record earnings in 2005 from its operations in Belize, Central America.

Belizean environmentalists and community leaders, meanwhile, gathered yesterday to protest the company’s rate hikes ‚Äì two since last summer ‚Äì and its failure to comply with an environmental agreement signed with the government of Belize in 2002.

According to Candy Gonzalez, Vice President of the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy, "Fortis/BECOL has not met its legal obligations in constructing the Chalillo dam and providing for the health and safety of the people, the river, and the environment."

Fortis completed the widely opposed Chalillo dam on the Macal River last November, after a protracted legal battle with environmental groups.

In its report card released today, the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy gives Fortis a failing grade on:

  • Water quality monitoring
  • Wildlife and archaeological heritage protection
  • Dam safety and emergency preparedness
  • Public access to information; and
  • Cost of service.

    "We believe Fortis has inflated its profitability by evading its environmental responsibilities and overcharging customers," says Gonzalez, an organizer of yesterday’s riverside rally and one of 12,000 people living downstream of the 12-storey high Chalillo dam. "We want an honest review of the company’s costs and profits, and the safety of its hydro operations."

    Belizeans pay Fortis a staggering 22 US cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity, which is nearly double, even triple, the cost most Canadians pay for their electricity service.

  • Fortis blames its high costs on rising fuel prices even though half the country’s power supply now comes from two hydro dams, owned by BECOL, a subsidiary of Fortis.

    "Fortis shareholders should insist upon an open and impartial review to ensure that Belizean ratepayers are not being gouged," says Grainne Ryder, Policy Director of Probe International. "Fortis’ failure to procure competitively priced power and the less-than-transparent relationship between its two subsidiaries warrants regulatory scrutiny."

    Fortis is the majority owner of Belize Electricity, the country’s monopoly buyer and distributor of electricity to nearly 70,000 customers. Fortis also owns the Belize Electric Company (BECOL) which operates the country’s two hydro facilities: Mollejon and now Chalillo, which is expected to double power output from the Macal River.

    Prior to flooding by the Chalillo dam, the Macal River Valley was internationally renowned for its Maya ruins and abundance of rare birds and wildlife, including the jaguar, tapir, and scarlet macaw.

    For more information and photos, CONTACT:
    Grainne Ryder, Policy Director, Probe International, Toronto, Canada
    Tel: 416-964-9223, ext. 228

    Categories: Chalillo Dam

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