Chile Rejects Maritime Claim By Coal-Fired Power Plant Developer
Oceana appreciates the refusal of concessions to the Barrancones thermoelectric power plant
Press Release Date: November 18, 2009
Location: Santiago, Chile
The international ocean conservation organization Oceana, praised the Undersecretary of Fisheries’ rejection of the maritime claim made by Suez Energy, owner of the thermoelectric power plant project that was to be located in the town of La Higuera, Coquimbo. These concessions were necessary for the company to be able to transport coal to the area to be used in the proposed power plant.
Barrancones is one of the three projected coal fired power plants that have been proposed for the area of Punta de Choros, which is only a few kilometers from the Choros Marine Reserve – Damas and the National Humboldt Penguin Reserve
“The rejection of these maritime concessions is an encouraging sign set against the serious damage that the proliferation of these power plants can lead to in Chile. Coal is one of the most polluting energy sources in the world and we should start to replace it with cleaner alternatives. We hope that the rejection will be final when the COREMA decides on the environmental qualifications of the Barrancones plant,” remarked Alex Muñoz, Executive Director of Oceana in South America.
Oceana has warned of the serious impacts that emissions from coal fired power plants have on marine ecosystems and the health of people, particularly the local communities that surround the plants. The organization especially expressed causation about the effect of mercury emissions resulting from coal combustion. The emissions from these plants contain mercury, a highly toxic metal that accumulates in marine organisms and people and can cause serious neurological problems and malformations in fetuses.
“Mercury emissions from power plants should be generating more concern from the government. The release of this metal may affect people’s health, especially children and pregnant women. Chile does not have adequate standards for controlling these kinds of emissions and therefore should not allow more projects of this type while adequate safeguards for the health of the population are not available,” said Munoz.
Also, Oceana highlighted the negative effects of emitting large amounts of CO2 and coal dust into the atmosphere, as well as rising sea temperatures that come from the discharging of super heated cooling water from the power plants back into the ocean. All of this would alter the normal functioning of the marine ecosystem, causing imbalances that threaten biodiversity and the various marine resources that sustain the local communities.
The marine reserve near where the Barrancones plant would be located is known to host the largest populations of Humboldt penguins in the world, colonies of bottlenose dolphins, sea otters, many birds and other marine mammals such as blue whale which often appear during the summer months.
Since 2005, the Chilean government has approved 11 projects for power plants currently in various stages of construction, and another 11 projects are being evaluated.