Protecting the Dominican Republic from the Coal Menace

8/7/19
ELAW Bulletin

 

Punta Catalina Thermoelectric Plant

Coal kills people and hammers the climate, but governments and corporations continue trying to build new coal-fired power plants. ELAW is pleased to help partners in the Dominican Republic amplify local voices and present the economic case that a coal-fired power plant is a bad investment and should not be allowed to operate.
 
The 752 MW Punta Catalina coal-fired power plant is the Dominican Republic’s largest coal-fired power plant. ELAW partners at Instituto de Abogados para la Proteccion del Medio Ambiente (INSAPROMA) are working to protect communities from the polluting project. ELAW attorneys helped argue the coal plant's environmental impact assessment (EIA) is legally defective and the emissions will violate the rights of local communities to a healthy environment.
 
The project has been mired in scandal, with the original funder - the Brazil State-owned bank BNDES - pulling out. Construction has been halted for a long time due to corruption tied to the Brazilian contractor. The operators of the plant have yet to complete tests of the facility’s functionality.

Ernie Niemi, Natural Resource Economics (left) with Euren Cuevas, INSAPROMA.

At the request of ELAW partners, Ernie Niemi, President of Natural Resource Economics, traveled to the Dominican Republic last week to share his expertise with academics and decision makers, including Sina Del Rosario, the Vice Minister of Habitat and Local Development within the Ministry of the President, and the Board of Directors of the Dominican Corporation of State Electricity Companies (CDEEE), headed by economist Jaime Aristy Escuder who administers the Punta Catalina Thermoelectric Plant.
“I presented the facts – that the external risks associated with coal-fired power plants far outweigh the benefits,” says Ernie. “New reports are issued every week, showing the real risk of polluting carbon emissions. Renewable energy sources would be best, with natural gas coming in second. Coal does not make sense. There are cheaper ways to generate power.”
 
Ernie worked closely with Enrique de Leon, spokesperson for the Dominican Republic NGO the National Committee to Combat Climate Change (CNLCC), to present the economic argument against coal at several public and private meetings.
 
Following Ernie’s visit, Enrique wrote:
 
“Although the visit lasted just two days, the impact has been enormous as revealed by the amount of press we received. For our fight it has meant a great victory… Ernie helped us open up dialogue, for the first time, with authorities at the highest level and we have added many partners in the electricity sector. We also overcame the media blockade of information about this issue.”
 
We will keep you informed of our progress defending citizens’ rights to clean air and a healthy climate in the Dominican Republic, and around the world.
 
For more information, see:

Press Release, INSAPROMA, August 5, 2019
 
Primicias, August 2, 2019
Convertir Punta Catalina a gas natural ahorraría US$1,300 millones en un año
 
Listin Diario, August 1, 2019
Experto advierte que el carbón es una amenaza para el turismo del país

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide