HidroAysén Headed to the High Court and the Big Screen

Berklee Lowrey-Evans

Yesterday morning the Appellate Court of Puerto Montt decided to reject the 7 appeals for legal protection that were filed in May by a diverse group of people and organizations opposed to HidroAysén. In the afternoon, the Patagonia Defense Council (CDP) released a press release stating that our legal team will be taking this case to the Supreme Court of Chile.

"We will appeal to the Supreme Court because we believe our legal arguments demonstrate that the decision taken by the Environmental Evaluation Committee violates constitutional guarantees and is completely illegal" assured Marcelo Castillo, lawyer for the CDP. 

Almost immediately, people were organizing on Facebook and via email, with calls for manifestaciones en las calles. Today at noon, people gathered in front of the Appellate Court in Coyhaique to show their disapproval of the ruling. At 5pm, there was a gathering in Plaza Italia.

At 3pm on Saturday October 15th there will be a huge march – la Marcha de los Indignados – from Plaza Italia to Parque O'Higgins; the call is for everyone to join together and express their outrage about the various issues facing Chile today, most notably education reform and the need for sustainable energy solutions, not risky and expensive big dams. There might also be another manifestación on Monday the 17th in Santiago specifically about HidroAysén.

Although President Piñera has only a 30% approval rating, he took the extraordinary measure of sending a bill to Congress on Tuesday night aimed at further decreasing the rights of Chileans to protest. While the bill is unlikely to be approved, I admit that I'm quite shocked he would do something so draconian when his approval is so low and the student movement is enjoying widespread public support.

As if all this bad news wasn't enough, it was also announced today that HidroAysén and mining company Xstrata are close to reaching an agreement on sharing land for the transmission lines that would be needed to export the hydroelectric power from their five and three big dams, respectively. HidroAysén is supposedly going to turn in the EIA for their transmission lines in March of 2012. Considering how many people would be directly affected, how many protected areas would be impacted, and how many regions the lines would cross, the environmental review process for the lines is likely to take even longer and have even more problems than the dams.

On a more positive note, the film Patagonia Rising (Patagonia se levanta) will be showing this month in both Chile and the US. It will screen at the Valdivia International Film Festival on Oct 11 and 12, and during the Closing Night Gala of the Pacific Rim Film Festival in Santa Cruz, CA on Oct 19. Check out the Patagonia Rising website for more info on screenings in San Francisco, CA and Bellingham, WA in late October.

I'll write another blog when I have some more information about the next steps in the legal and social battle against HidroAysén.

More information: 

Article in The Santiago Times from October 8, 2011.