SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chile's Supreme Court sided with local fishermen who contend a coal-fired power complex harms ocean life and pollutes their community, but the judges stopped short of ordering a suspension and left it to environmental authorities to decide if operations can continue.
The ruling on the Bocamina complex released Friday was another in a series of blows to big power projects in energy-strapped Chile, where concerns over environmental issues have been rising.
In December, an appeals court halted the 350-megawatt Bocamina II part of the complex owned by Endesa Chile in the southern Bio Bio region, citing harm to fishermen's livelihood.
The 128-megawatt Bocamina I plant was allowed to keep running. But the Supreme Court said the whole complex should shut down unless officials determine the water-cooling system doesn't threaten or hurt marine life.
The company can only operate the Bocamina I and II thermoelectric plants if they don't put harm marine life or put it at risk, the high court said in a ruling made Thursday.
The court ordered Chile's environmental authorities to take all measures required, including "a halt of operations" if needed, until the problem is fixed.
Environmental groups and fishermen say the complex's use of huge amounts of seawater to cool its equipment damages the area.
"It has been sucking the water with tubes, destroying and spitting back dead fish and crustaceans into the water through its cooling system," said Lorenzo Soto, a lawyer representing fishermen. He called the court's finding "a great victory for the local fishing community."
Endesa Chile issued a statement that it has implemented a plan to reduce the risk of sea life being sucked into the cooling system and has given it to authorities.