Around the Region

Brazil’s impact-fee decree wins praise...and a lawsuit

Brazil’s president last month put a ceiling on the environmental-impact fees companies must pay in connection with their investment projects, drawing applause from companies and a lawsuit from green groups. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s decree (No. 6,848) follows an April 2008 Brazilian Supreme Court ruling that repealed a measure establishing a minimum impact fee based on 0.5% of the initial project investment. The court excised that measure, which was part of a 2000 law, on grounds that such fees must be based on the size of the impact, not the size of the investment. The court reasoned that the size of an investment does not necessarily reflect a project’s environmental impact, and that a fixed-minimum fee unfairly penalizes companies that invest...

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Former ranch in Brazil becomes Ramsar site

A private ecotourism retreat and scientific research center in the Brazilian Pantanal, the world’s largest freshwater wetland, has been designated a Ramsar site. In May, Fazenda Rio Negro, or Black River Ranch, and surrounding conservation lands were declared a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance on account of the area’s rare topography, wide biodiversity and numerous threatened species. The designation, which signals wetlands worthy of special protection, has been applied to over 1,800 sites worldwide under the Ramsar Convention, which dates from 1971. The 7,000-hectare (17,360-acre) Fazenda Rio Negro is Brazil’s ninth Ramsar site and the second privately owned wetland area in the country to be designated. Like other parts of the vast Pantanal, much of Fazenda Rio Negro land is flooded half the...

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Licensing of hydro project makes waves in Colombia

As the holder of Latin America’s second greatest hydroelectric potential after Brazil, Colombia has invested heavily in dam construction to meet the bulk of its energy needs. But while the government promotes hydropower as clean and dependable, environmental groups and local farm groups usually can be counted on to oppose the flooding of forests and cropland. The case of the El Quimbo hydroelectric plant, soon to be built on the upper portion of the Magdalena River, is no exception. Government officials cheered news last month that Carlos Costa, Colombia’s new Minister of the Environment, Housing and Territorial Development, announced he would grant an environmental license to the Spanish firm Endesa to start building the US$700 million facility in the southwestern department of Huila. The...

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