Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Accelerated Environmental Licenses

On August 31 the de facto government of Honduras announced a new partnership where business would provide the money for salaries for 35 new employees for SERNA, the Secretary of Natural Resources and Climate with the expressed goal of accelerating the approval of environmental licenses for energy projects.

El Heraldo informs us there was, at that time, a backlog of 1200 license applications, some dating as far back as 1992. Now SERNA was reputed to be fairly thorough when it issued a license, and often asked for changes in the project. An average license took two years from the time it was applied for to the time it was granted. As a result, many powerful companies simply didn't bother to get a license, gambling on their wealth and access to power to protect them. Notable among such projects recently is the Gas de Caribe case in Omoa, where the Mexican owned LPG company built a series of natural gas storage facilities without bothering to get an environmental license despite the many protests to SERNA by the occupants of Omoa.

The alleged goal of this partnership was to reduce the backlog to zero by December 31 this year. Vice Minister of Natural Resources, Mauricio Reconco, said "We hope by
December 31 of this year to activate a great many of projects which permit the generation of 200 Megawatts of clean energy...we are looking at projects from 150 megawatts to 10 megawatts." Congress, we are told, is working on enabling legislation to loosen the environmental regulations that hold up these projects and streamline their approval. Recently Congress issued its legislation approving some $1200 million for renewable energy projects within the country, and the Banco Central transferred the corresponding funds to the Honduran bank that then funds the projects.

Today, less than a month later, SERNA handed over 320 environmental licenses for projects valued at $368 million, projects such as piers for cruise ships to dock on the Bay Islands, housing, pharmaceutical companies, chemical companies, hotels, restaurants. Not a single one of the renewable energy projects promised. SERNA promises they will have issued over half the backlog of licenses by the end of this month! None of these projects seems to raise any environmental issues. Literally incredible.

1 comment:

Nell said...

I've been thinking about things like this ever since I saw a RealNews video report in which I understood Oscar Estrada as saying that the coup Congress has re-privatized the water service, something that they couldn't get done even when the National Party was in office because of the public opposition.

It made me wonder what other kinds of hard-to-reverse dirty deals might be happening, with most attention diverted to the restoration/constituyente struggle.

If Zelaya were to be restored soon (say, in time to host the World Cup game), and Lobo went on to win the elections, and they were recognized (despite low turnout and high nullification rates)... It seems as if the next Congress could actually be worse.

Yet another reason why a constitutional assembly is the only way out of the crisis -- but I worry about irreparable damage between now and then, whenever it's won.