Endesa Chile appeals ruling against thermoelectric project

Santiago, Aug 8 (EFE).- The Chilean subsidiary of Spain's Endesa said Thursday that it will ask Chile's Supreme Court to overturn a ruling ordering it to halt construction of the 740 MW Punta Alcalde thermoelectric project.

Located 700 kilometers (435 miles) north of Santiago in the Atacama region, the project meets all legal requirements and is in compliance with environmental standards, Endesa Chile said.

The Santiago Appeals Court halted the project after granting three motions filed by area grassroots organizations. Those groups had challenged a Dec. 3 decision by a panel of Cabinet ministers that gave the green light for construction to begin.

"Punta Alcalde will be one of the most efficient plants in Chile's electrical system, with a generating capacity equivalent to more than 10 percent of the current electricity demand in the (central grid)," Endesa Chile said in a statement.

The project has a $1.4 billion price tag and includes the construction of a port.

Endesa Chile's decision to appeal the ruling has the backing of the Chilean government.

Economy Minister Felix de Vicente lamented the ruling as "bad news" for the energy-strapped country, saying Chile "has lost competitiveness because of the electricity issue."

Environmental organizations, however, criticized the government for supporting Endesa's project.

"The government is protecting Endesa's and the mining companies' corporate interests instead of pushing an energy policy that is truly directed at the common good," the vice president for South America of international ocean conservation and advocacy organization Oceana, Alex Muñoz, said.

The Supreme Court, according to sources familiar with the case, could take up to six months to rule on Endesa Chile's appeal.