Supreme court to decide on Chile's Punta Alcalde

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

In the latest installment of the so-called "judicialization" of large projects in Chile, the government's ministerial committee has decided to appeal last week's ruling against development of Endesa Chile's 740MW Punta Alcalde coal-fired thermo project to the supreme court, according to a statement by environment ministry undersecretary and committee head Ricardo Irarrázabal.

Last week a Santiago appeals court approved three of four injunctions against the controversial US$1.4bn power plant nullifying the project's environmental permit, which had been rejected then approved by ministerial committee.

The conditions imposed on the project, as part of the committee's approval, would help improve the air quality of the town of Huasco in region III, according to the ministerial statement citing a report by the environmental evaluation service.

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The groups opposing the construction of the plant may also appeal to the supreme court the fourth injunction, the groups' attorney Álvaro Toro told BNamericas.

Large thermos such as the 2.1GW Castilla and 566MW Barrancones projects and some large hydros in the south have faced strong social opposition and subsequent legal battles as an ever more litigious Chilean society looks for more "environmental friendly" ways to produce power in the wake of the massive coal buildup in the late 2000s.

The increasing litigious opposition of generation projects has led to project delays, higher development costs, fear of supply shortages and a negative impact on mining development.

As opposed to coal and diesel, natural gas-fired plants have been less of a target given the fuel's reduced CO2 and particle emissions. However, the tide has begun to change as, what stands to become Chile's largest power plant, the 1.14GW twin gas turbine combined cycle plant associated with the Octopus LNG terminal project has started to face opposition by local communities in region VIII during its public consultation process.