April-May 2002

Campaign to Save Macal River Valley: Updates

1. Belizean groups file second lawsuit, charging deal is illegal

A second lawsuit against the dam was filed by the Belize Alliance of Conservation NGOs (BACONGO) in Belize on March 20.  This suit challenges the approval given by the Public Utilities Commission of Belize for a $500 million deal for Belize Electricity Limited (a Fortis company) to purchase electricity from the existing dam and the proposed Chalillo dam, owned by Belize Electricity Company (also owned by Fortis), and pass on the costs to consumers.  The lawsuit charges that the deal violates the law and the PUC's obligation to protect consumers and promote competition.  Dates will be set soon to hear this case. 

BACONGO filed an earlier lawsuit which charges proponents of the dam project with breaking Belize's environmental laws, and beginning construction illegally.  The Chief Justice of Belize's Supreme Court ruled earlier that enough evidence was presented to warrant a full hearing of BACONGO's case, overrulling objections by Fortis' lawyers.  Judge Conteh chided pro-dam lawyers saying: "This is not about technicalities, this is about justice." 

A date will also be set soon for this hearing.

2. CBC and Zone Libre present tv exposes of Chalillo dam

CBC Disclosure has done an investigative journalism piece on the dam: . It focuses on CIDA and AMEC's involvement in the flawed environmental assessment, and potential conflicts of interest.  Stan Marshall, Fortis CEO, is on camera saying that electricity rates in Belize will probably go *up* after Chalillo, not down.  The piece was aired on Tuesday, April 2, and again on CBC Newsworld. 

RadioCanada's Zone Libre has produced a program on Fortis' proposed dam in French, with great wildlife footage of the area.

Both shows can be viewed from links at the StopFortis homepage.

3. Thousands of petitions delivered to Fortis in Newfoundland

Thirty thousand petitions, including many from Newfoundland and Labrador children, were delivered to Fortis. On March 1, 2002 Newfoundland actor and activist Greg Malone led a group of dam opponents to the offices of Fortis CEO Stan Marshall to deliver 30,000 petitions from around the world on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, BACONGO and others in the Coalition to Save the Macal River Valley.  Mr. Marshall refused to allow the media into his office as Malone delivered the petitions, and later stormed out of his office and screamed that 30,000 people was a very small number.

National CBC coverage, and local tv and radio coverage showed the letters and drawings by young people in Newfoundland opposed to the dam.  One student wrote: \"Mr. Marshall, please think twice-or even once\" about what you're doing.  These letters often accompanied pennies-to replace Fortis' profits on the dam project-as part of the Pennies for Parrots educational program (see www.penniesforparrots.org).

Presenting the petitions, Malone compared Fortis to BRINCO, the company that built a large hydropower project in Newfoundland, whose profits all leave Newfoundland.  See Malone's comments at stopfortis.org.

4. Complaint filed against AMEC for professional misconduct

Probe International has filed a complaint before the Canadian Association of Professional Engineers, charging AMEC with professional misconduct.  AMEC, the consultant funded by Canada's foreign aid agency (CIDA) to do environmental studies for the Chalillo dam, provided a study that contains false information about the dam site geology-claiming that the site is granite, when in fact there is no granite to be found there.  The dam site is actually made up of sandstones and shale; the difference could have significant consequences for the costs of building the dam, and potential risks to the lives of downstream residents from dam failure. Fortis submitted AMEC's flawed study as part of its application for permits to build the Chalillo dam.

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