August 22, 2008
Members of the umbrella group Patagonia Defense Council joined in Region XI’s Coyhaique on Thursday to demand that the regional Environmental Commission (CONAMA de Aysén) completely discard a 10,500 page environmental impact assessment (EIA) that the controversial multinational energy conglomerate HidroAysén submitted the week before.
“If CONAMA accepts the EIA as a reference, it will have to face the consequences,” said Ecosistemas Director Juan Pablo Orrego.
“The 45 local, regional, national, and international organizations that make up the atagonia Defense Council will have a new adversary: HidroAysén partners Endesa and Colbún (Spanish-Italian electricity giant and a Chilean company, respectively), and the government as well.”
The council argued that the HidroAysén dam project, which would include a series of five dams (with, together, a total potential producing capacity of 2,750 MW) blocking the Baker and Pascua rivers, does not have the legal rights to the rivers’ water. The energy conglomerate had solicited these rights from Chile’s General Water Office in August of last year but has yet to be awarded them.
As for the controversial issue of how to transport the energy produced by the dams, HidroAysén’s proposal is to run nearly 2,300 kilometers of transmission lines to power central and northern Chile, where it would primarily serve mining operations.
The Canadian-owned Transelec plans to carry out this transmission project, but has still not submitted its own environmental impact assessment. The council argued on Thursday that without the power-line EIA, which Transelec will submit the next year; HidroAysén’s environmental assessment is incomplete.
“How can you present an energy project without a transmission plan as well?” Orrego rhetorically asked. “Presenting the project this way obviously reduces the environmental impact.”
Groups opposing the HidroAysén project have characterized it as an anachronistic behemoth that will line the pockets of private power and mining companies at significant social and environmental costs. They accuse the company as being out of step with 21st-century energy-production trends that lean toward renewable energy technologies and improvements in energy efficiency.
SOURCES: LA NACIÓN, ECOSISTEMAS
By Thomás Rothe (firstname.lastname@example.org)