Chile's supreme court favors changes to environmental evaluation process

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chile's supreme court issued a report in favor of a bill to introduce changes to some of the procedures currently governing the country's environmental evaluation process.

Following a request by the president of the lower house, the court said that the bill is correct in introducing changes that will discourage the so-called "judicialization" of projects submitted for evaluation.

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A number of mining and energy projects have been halted by legal challenges in the supreme court during the environmental evaluation process, or even after securing a permit, including Pascua Lama, El Morro, Punta Alcalde, Barrancones, Castilla and Río Cuervo.

The proposed bill was submitted by a group of lawmakers who seek to extend the number of days that all those potentially affected by the development of projects will be able to file their complaints with the environmental evaluation service (SEA).

The bill also assigns a more prominent role to the specialized environmental tribunals, the most recent addition to Chile's environmental framework, by giving these courts the power to hear challenges to a project submitted by interested parties, or if a project has been rejected by the SEA.

The supreme court said in its recommendation that by giving the environmental courts an earlier role "[it] is the correct way to avoid the 'judicialization' via legal challenges."

The bill is currently being reviewed by the lower house's environmental and natural resources committee.