Campaign against the power plants

Gobierno de ChileFishers Open Letter to President Piñera

La Serena, May 2, 2018
 
Mister
Sebastián Piñera Echeñique
President of the Republic
 
Sebastián Piñera EcheñiqueDear Mr. President,
 
As the Fishers and Citzens Collective of the Community Association of La Higuera and the Coquimbo Region, we are turning to you with an open letter, in order to voice our profound indignation that the government had decided not to lodge an appeal to the High Court against the April 27th verdict of the First Environmental Court in Antofagasta. With that verdict, the corporation Andes Iron's objection against the decisions of the governmental agency responsible for the environmental compatibility review and the Committee of Ministers was accepted, with the putative argument that “this time the procedure will follow valid law.”
 
How can the government and the environmental court guarantee and assure us that the environmental compatibility review will “this time” proceed according to valid law, when the environmental court  accepts a manipulated assessment as correct and does so without further review, and requires a new vote on the matter, without the company having first addressed and eliminated the faults of the intended Project?
 
How can we trust when,

1. a way is paved by your government for a company that was not willing in its description of the affected area, to even mention the already-existing natural protection area. In this way Andes Iron sought to prevent the relevant authorities from being able to conduct a responsible evaluation of the project's expected impact on this protected area, on the marine areas approved for small-scale fishing, and on the protected areas that exist for threatened species to be able to feed, etc.
 
2. your government paves a way for a company that was not capable of appropriately gauging the value of the Humboldt Archipeligo for fishing productivity, not capable of evaluating the value of maintaining biological diversity in the area, and not capable of seeing the value of special tourism, a company that regardless of the price, insists on building another industrial port for the shipment of bulk ore.
 
3. the court orders – and the government supports the court therein – that the assessment process of the environmental compatibility be remanded back to the point in time immediately after the ICE (the Final Report from the SEA). In so doing, all of Chile knows that this report was manipulated and that the assessments made by the subject-matter-experts were not reflected in the report. For that very reason, the regional government at the time – the one that noticed this abnormality, voted as a majority to reject the report, since it could not be guaranteed that there would be no negative impact on the marine habitat and the there-found AMERBs (governmentally-protected areas for the harvesting of shellfish, that themselves are under protected status).
 
4. the court orders – and again the government supports the court – on the basis of the manipulated ICE, without any additional assessment evaluation, to vote again on the project, this vote to be done by the new regional Government.
 
5. the environmental court ignored the grave, substantial deficiencies of the intended project. As a result, it is not possible for the project to guarantee that 1. no irreperable damage to the ecosystem of the “Humboldt Archipeligo” (consisting of the islands of  Pájaros Grande, Pájaros Chico, Tilgo, Chungungo, Totoralillo Norte, Gaviotas, Damas, Choros and Chañaral) will result, and 2. the water in the entire valley of Los Choros will not be negatively impacted.
 
6. On the other hand, how could we – residents of the community, of the region, and of Chile – trust that this time things will be done correctly, when the opinion of scientists and academics was completely and systematically ignored. Subject-matter-experts have repeatedly, in different instances before the regional government and subject-specific commissions, proven that the Humboldt Archipeligo is a very highly sensitive ecosystem, and that with just one industrial port – and even more so two, or even three – considerable, irreversable damage would be caused. What a contradiction it is, when scientists are required to offer their services to the government, and then once they have gotten involved, have themselves totally ignored by this same Government.
 
7. In addition, how can we trust when without suitable participation, information and discussions territorial instruments such as the PRI (supra-regional development plan) were changed, or instead were “customized” strictly for economic interests? For five years, through citizen participation, guiding principles were worked out as to how to best recommend the coastal region of La Higuera be appropriately protected and the nature and biodiversity preserved. But then in one single governmental sitting, these guiding principles were adulterated, and the affected area declared an “area approriate for the building of industrial port facilities.”
 
8. How can we trust today, when it is ignored that this archipeligo, because of its extraordinary qualities, has been internationally identified by experts as a hot – and hopespot – for the preservation of biodiversity on the planet, and that instead nothing is untertaken by your government to protect this one-of-a-kind ecosystem?
 
9. We ask ourselves what really is behind the Dominga Project, when all of these factors are ignored, the truth bastardized, public opinion manipulated, previously-agreed-to committments not adhered to, environmental law interpreted and distorted in the service of certain interests, and the resources of the entire country gravely endangered?
 
10. You yourself, Mr. President, in 2010, through a surprising act, prevented the building of the Barrancones coal-fired power plant and publicly declared (and we quote), “I have a very powerful and deep personal responsibility to protect the wonders of nature and the environment, the plants, animals and biodiversity; it is a responsibility for life...I am endlessly pleased to have found a solution, one that under respect for our nation of law, has been able to protect this natural sanctuary. As President I feel myself filled with tremendous happiness, and even more as a citizen, to be able to preserve this marvel, this holy place of nature...” What has changed today, such that this holy place can now be threatened?
 
11. In short, Mr. President, we hold it to be a duty of the State to safeguard the interests of Chile. The State must not allow a company using all available means, to threaten the interests of the country through an irresponsible project that threatens the Humboldt Archipeligo and the people that live and work there. The Environmental Ministry and the Agencies responsible for the Environmental Impact Assessment must appeal the decision to the Chilean Supreme Court, in order to guarantee that environmental law will in fact be abided by and more precisely, that the precautionary principle upon which the law is grounded upon, is adhered to. That is the only way to guarantee sustainable development. Should this project be approved, it will be a shame for the entire country of Chile.
 
The following organizations have joined in this open letter:
 
Federación de Pescadores de la comuna de La Higuera
A.G. de Trabajadores del Mar Independientes Punta de Choros
Agrupación de Trabajadores Independientes de Caleta Hornos
Movimiento de Defensa del Medio Ambiente - MODEMA
Organización de Desarrollo y Fomento al Turismo Punta de Choros-  ODEFOT
Agrupación Mujeres Orilleras de Caleta Hornos
Sindicato de Pescadores Buzos y Recolectores de Orilla La Cruz de Chungungo
A.G. de Pescadores y Mariscadores Los Choros
A.G. de Pescadores de Chungungo
Agua Potable Rural de Punta de Choros
Cooperativa Pesquera comercializadora Los Choros
Juntas de Vecinos de Los Choros
Cooperativa Punta Norte de Punta de Choros
Asociación de Pequeños Propietarios Agrícolas de Los Choros
Consejo Consultivo Conjunto Reserva Nacional Pingüino de Humboldt y Reserva Marina Choros-Damas
Pequeñas empresas de turismo, avistamiento de cetáceos y aves marinas,
gastronomía alojamiento y entretención.
Comuneros de la Comunidad Agrícola de Los Choros
Asociación de Mujeres Delicias de Punta de Choros
Defensa Ambiental IV Región
Red Ambiental Norte - La Serena
Red Ambiental Norte - Coquimbo
Acción Ecosocial IV
Revolución de la Cuchara Chile
Frente EcoSocial Elqui
Unidad Movimiento de Acción Social Región Coquimbo
Estudiantes de La Serena y Coquimbo
Newen Kallfu Coquimbo
NiUnaMenos Coquimbo La Serena
Federación Estudiantes Secundarios Serena Coquimbo -FESC
Agrupación de Mujeres Defensoras del Patrimonio Natural La Higuera
Sphenisco Región de Coquimbo
Defensores del Patrimonio Natural de la Región de Coquimbo
Valles en Movimiento de Monte Patria

Two Steps Forward, Four Steps Back

Landau 8.May 2018.

For over 20 years, natural and environmental preservationists have been defending the habitat of the Humboldt Penguin, the ecosystem “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral”, and have demanded the creation of a marine protection area. Last year, the Coquimbo Regional Government and later the Chilean Federal Government rejected Andes Iron Corporation’s mining and port project, thus setting an example for sustainable development in the La Higuera Region. On March 5th-6 days before the change of government the committee of ministers unanimously voted for the marine protection area “Pinguino de Humboldt. As a consequence, President Bachelet enacted the required decree. The Bachelet government however, left the size and demarcation of the protection area open. This was certainly not a breakthrough, but definitely a step in the right direction.

The Chilean Supreme Court has now rejected the case against the Cruz Grande port project intended by Corporation Compania Minera del Pacifico S.A. (CMP). Shortly thereafter, the First Environmental Court in Antofagasta sustained Andes Iron Corporation’s suit against the rejection of its Dominga mining and port projects (see open letter from 28. April). These verdicts endanger the existence of many people in the La Higuera Region and an ecosystem of global status.

How will this proceed? The environmental protectionists have filed suit in an international court against the approval of the Cruz Grande project, as well as in the Chilean Supreme Court against the verdict from the court in Antofagasta. The indignation in Chile is so intense, especially with respect to the verdict in Antofagasta (governmental capriciousness endangers the principles of a nation of law), that the environmental protectionists are receiving much support, and more and more people are backing the protests.

W.K.

 

Open Letter from Nancy Duman, Sphenisco

28. April 2018

Yesterday on April 27, 2018 the First Environmental Court in Antofagasta announced its verdict with respect to the suit brought by the Andes Iron Corporation. Andes Iron had sued against SEA’s (the agency responsible for reviewing an intended project’s environmental compatibility) and the Committee of Ministers’ rejection of its Dominga mining and port projects. In detail, the judges stated:

1.  the claim brought by Andes Iron against SEA and the Committee of Ministers is sustained.

2.  the assessment 1.146 on 13. October 2017 of the Acting Director of SEA in his function as Acting Secretary of the Committee of Ministers is annulled.

3.  the decision Nr. 08/2018 of the Committee of Ministers is also annulled.

4.  further, Resolution Nr. 0025 from 14. March 2017 (Final Decision on the Environmental Compatibility – RCA) of the Environmental Compatibility Commission (COEVA) is annulled.

5.  it is to be mandated, that the Process of the Environmental Compatibility Review be remanded back to the Phase after the ICE (Final Report of the Environmental Compatibility Review), so that a new vote - now a legitimate one – can take place at the Environmental Compatibility Commission of the Coquimbo Region (COEVA).

The (new) Environmental Minister commented on the verdict as follows: “As the government, we want to ensure that the procedure will now conform to the law. Paying deference to the law, the constitutionality, is guaranteed for all citizens. Therefore the verdict is very clear when it states that the process must be remanded back to where a new vote from the Environmental Compatibility Commission of the Coquimbo Region (COEVA) can take place. And that so – literally translated – this vote can be a legitimate one.”

We see this entirely differently. If one takes the entire evaluation procedure into consideration, it becomes clear that – quite to the contrary – this verdict is irresponsible, not in accordance with the law and a shame for the entire country of Chile.

If in fact the intent of the verdict was to establish legal conformity and constitutionality, then the Process of the Environmental Review would not have been remanded to the Phase after the ICE (Final Report) and a new vote allowed, without the entire environmental review process in and of itself first having been reexamined. With the current decision, the environmental court opens the way for the very governmental despotism that it claims to fight against. The same applies to the new Environmental Ministry which, as a party to the case, did not lodge an appeal to the highest court’s verdict.

This becomes obvious through the letter that the employees of SEA (Coquimbo Region) wrote last year to their director, and also from the document regarding the concluded disciplinary process in which 12 civil servants witnessed to the fact that the ICE (Final Report) was elaborated in Santiago and did not take the regional assessment into account, and that the Surrogate Director of the Regional Environmental Agency was sent to sign the report, so that the insufficient “Final Report” could be incorporated into the environmental compatibility review.

As a reminder: prior to this report, the SEA had accepted the observations of CONAF (The Chilean Environmental Protection Agency), as indicated in Adenda 3, and demanded that the responsible governmental agencies state their opinions. When the ICE was due however, for then-unexplainable reasons (we now know why) a fourth Adenda was requested and prefaced by a report which completely differed from the previous one, and in which CONAF’s position was explicitly not acknowledged and its claims completely removed from the evaluation.

Since then, there is evidence that during the time that Pablo Badenier was  Environmental Minister, someone from the federal level intervened. In the document regarding the entire evaluation, this fact was witnessed in writing by 12 different officials. We hope that this document still exists and has not since been destroyed.

We recall: just a few days after the decision in the region by which the project was remanded, Badenier resigned, allegedly to support the presidential campaign of Carolina Goic. Shortly thereafter, the Federal Director of SEA, Jorge Troncoso and his entire team resigned, the very people that had prepared the report for the Committee of Ministers.

This alone attests to the fact that a grave mistake was made and a breach of governmental regulations committed, a breach sufficient to damage the governmental institutions of Chile and the country’s reputation throughout the world. We do not believe that a lack of information existed. 

One makes a serious error when one imposes a new regional vote (remanded to a specific phase in the court’s decision-making process). In this way, a project can be approved without having to provide the necessary information to substantiate it, because the government either cannot do so or does not want to attempt it, and instead wants to remove harmful proof to the contrary; thus, the government does not want to adhere to its own legal requirements, the necessary basis of an approval process, i.e., orderly evaluation of the ramifications of such a project. In other words, quite to the contrary: it is to be assumed that this environmental monument of global importance will be destroyed, and the future of the Humboldt Penguin species with it.

Translated by Erich Greiner

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Gracias Consejo Consultivo!

With my signature I join with Sphenisco e.V. in thanking Consejo Consultivo (advisory board), of the National Protection Area of the Humboldt Penguin. For more than 20 years, the advisory board has exemplarily, and incorruptibly advocated for the habitat of the Humboldt Penguin and other threatened species. In the zone of the Protection Area eight different species of whale, nine species of dolphins find sustenance, bottlenose dolphins raise their young, and many coastal residents earn their living through fishing as well as tourism. Each of us, each according to his abilities, will continue to support Consejo Consultivos’ efforts to protect this ecosystem of global importance.

We are using your personal data strictly for this campaign. Your data will be deleted immediately thereafter. No data is transferred to any third party. We will keep you informed about the campaign on our website.

for your signature please click here

 

Can Justice See in the Dark and Does She Even Want to?

La Serena, Landau 21. March 2018.

JustitiaWe remember. Sphenisco and Chilean environmentalists continually pointed out the irregularities in the environmental review of the Dominga project (Andes Iron Corporation), and even demanded an investigative committee be formed because of it. The Parliament met this demand and investigated the irregularities, mistakes, and deficiencies in the review of the Dominga project. Our employee Nancy Duman testified at the investigative committee and summarized her comments as follows:

  1. The applicant has presented a project that does not meet the minimum requirements in order to be assessed.
  2. During the review process, observations of governmental organizations with environmental competence were ignored.
  3. The document provided, and its enhancements or addenda do not contain sufficient information in order to allow for a correct environmental sustainability review.
  4. SEA should therefore have suggested a rejection and not a consent.
  5. The vote of the Commission took place with all of these aspects having being presented.
  6. Academics and research about the meaning of the archipelago and the coastal area of La Higuera was not taken into consideration, the opinion of scientific experts was not called upon (see also report from 15. May 2017).

The following question is therefore legitimate:  what influence is responsible for these failures? Who exerted influence, so that the SEA (the agency responsible for reviewing environmental compatibility) recommended approval of the project, despite insufficient factual justification?

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Marine Protection Area So Close and Yet So Far

La Serena, Landau 18. March 2018.

MSZ1

The marine protection area in northern Chile “Pinguino de Humboldt” (marine region of La Higuera-Isla Chañaral), was applied for over 10 years ago. The application is scientifically well-justified and should prevent the destruction of a globally meaningful ecosystem that is the main breeding area of the Humboldt Penguin. After much public participation, the population is currently in favor of a protection area and considers the project a chance for the La Higuera region to develop long-term in a sustainable manner.

The protection of this sensitive ecosystem in the Coquimbo Region has again and again conflicted with powerful economic interests. First a hotel, then three coal-fired power plants, and now multiple ports for the shipment of iron ore should be built, without any regard for the environment. In addition, the planned protection area does not fit with the development of a bi-oceanic corridor. The intended corridor should connect the Pacific with the Atlantic Oceans and requires huge port capacities, among other things in the La Higuera municipality.

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Marine Protection Area “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral” 2017 – A Chronology

Chronologie

Landau, 18. December 2017

For more than 20 years, industrial projects have repeatedly threatened the marine region “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral” in northern Chile, and with that also threaten the main breeding area of the Humboldt Penguin. A few years ago it was the coal-fired power plants Barrancones and Farellones that endangered this threatened penguin species, currently it is the Dominga mining and port project as well as the port project Cruz Grande, from the mining company CMP (Compañia Minera del Pacifico). The following chronology documents the events and successes in the battle for the habitat of the Humboldt Penguins and other threatened species in the year 2017:

January

  • the previous year ends with a protest against the Dominga Project and the industrial port Totoralillo (see article from 10. December 2016).
  • proceedings in the lawsuit from the citizens group MODEMA against the approval of the Cruz Grande project begin in Santiago.

February

  • after numerous objections against “Dominga” as part of citizens participation, the SEA (the agency  responsible for the environmental compatibility review), to the surprise of all, extends the period for the environmental review and calls on the participanting agencies to explain their opinions in a Fourth Addendum (see article from 2. February 2017).

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