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Chile high court rejects challenge to hydroelectric dam project

The Supreme Court of Chile [official website, in Spanish] ruled [text, PDF, in Spanish] Wednesday that a hydroelectric dam in Patagonia does not violate the constitutional rights of the environmental groups opposing the project. Several environmental advocacy groups, including Chile Sustentable [advocacy website, in Spanish] challenged a ruling of the Court of Appeals of Puerto Montt which refused to issue an injunction to stop the construction of the dam finding that the project does not violate the constitutional rights of those in opposition. The HidroAysen [project website, in Spanish], a private Chilean venture, seeks to build five dams whose construction was approved [Huffington Post report] by the Chilean government in May 2011. Chile Sustentable expressed disappointment [press release, in Spanish] following the ruling but vowed to continue to challenge the project in court, indicating the group is considering bringing a challenge to the project in international court.

The decision to allow the construction of dams in Patagonia has been a controversial one. In June 2011, a Chilean appeals court ordered the temporary suspension [JURIST report] of the USD $10 billion HidroAysen project, approving three petitions challenging government authorization of the dam construction and granted the plaintiffs' petition for injunction. The court lifted the temporary suspension [Reuters report] in October 2011 allowing work on the project to move forward and spurring a constitutional challenge by environmentalists.

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