January 29, 2014 / 9:25 PM / 6 years ago

Regulator orders halt to Endesa Chile's Bocamina I power plant

SANTIAGO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Chile’s environmental regulator has ordered a temporary suspension of operations at Endesa Chile’s 128-megawatt Bocamina I coal-fired plant, the company said on Wednesday.

The 15-day freeze, which can be extended, comes on the heels of a ruling by an appeals court in December that halted the neighboring 350 megawatt Bocamina II plant in Chile’s southern Bio Bio region.

The Supreme Court then ruled earlier this month in favor of local fishermen who say Bocamina kills marine life and pollutes ocean water.

“The company voluntarily halted operations at Bocamina I on January 27 ... Endesa Chile is currently working on the procedures the SMA regulator has requested to unfreeze Bocamina I,” the company said in a statement.

In a significant shift for business-friendly Chile, social groups are successfully suing massive projects over threats to glaciers, health, indigenous rights and biodiversity.

Projects that use coal, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, have fared particularly poorly.

The suspension of energy complexes comes as copper powerhouse Chile is scrambling to tame surging power prices and bring fresh generation on line.

One of the big questions for Chile’s power-hungry miners is whether President-elect Michelle Bachelet, who takes office in March, will be able to solve the looming energy crunch.

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