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Historical ruling of Supreme Court suspends construction of mega wind farm project in southern Chile

The project that was illegally approved by the Regional Environmental Commission of Los Lagos region in August 2011, was suspended by the Chilean Supreme Court of Justice and will have to be submitted to an Environmental Impact Assessment.

The Supreme Court of Chile ordered last Friday the suspension of the mega wind project “Parque Eolico Chiloe” of the Chilean-Swedish company Ecopower, after welcoming an appeal presented by indigenous communities of Chiloe Island, southern Chile.

The mega wind farm project that seek to construct 56 towers of more than 100 meters height in the costal area of Mar Brava (northwester Chiloe island) was illegally approved on July 02, 2011 by the Regional Environmental Commission of Los Lagos region – lead by the mayor of the region, Juan Sebastian Montes.

In that opportunity, several social organizations expressed their opposition towards the irregular performance of the Regional Environmental Commission that unanimously approved the development of the project with out the conduction of an Environmental Impact Assessment that is mandatory under Chilean law for these types of projects.

In this context, the Supreme Court of Chile welcomed last Friday an appeal presented by indigenous communities, as required under the 169 Convention of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

In a unanimous decision the Ministers of the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court, the appeal was attended to reverse the decision of the Regional Environmental Commission of Los Lagos region. The decision highlights that this decision was an “arbitrary act of the Environmental Commission” since it did not conduct a proper consultation process to the indigenous community. It also states that “voluntary meetings with the community are far from satisfying the features of a proper consultation process to those affected by the project.”

The legal resolution adds that “such action (…) violates the obligation to substantiate administrative action because it is the result of a unclear process of consultation (…) making the decision illegal.

In this regard, congressmenn Fidel Espinoza, who supported the various demands of social groups against the process and location of wind farm in Chiloe, described the Supre Court ruling as historic and requested the resignation of the Mayor of Los Lagos region, Juan Sebastián Montes, for leading the arbitrary adoption of the project last August without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Meanwhile Barbara Galletti, president of the Cetacean Conservation Center (CCC), an organization that has actively worked with local groups demanding the relocation project and conducting the EIA, said that “we value the Supreme Court ruling and hope that this historic determination is replicated to other national energy projects that have been approved by dubious means and that also threaten the effective conservation of our natural and cultural heritage. ”

Last January Galletti, a member of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission, delivered a letter signed by more than 50 world experts in acoustics and whale research to the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, requesting the relocation of the wind farm project because of the impacts it would have on the population of blue whales that feed in summer in northwestern Chiloé, as well as to comply with national legislation and conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Source: Centro de Conservación CetaceaEl RepuertoRadio Cooperativa