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UPDATE 1-Chile court halts 350-MW Endesa plant to mull fishermen's appeal

Tuesday, 17 Dec 2013 | 1:14 PM ET

SANTIAGO, Dec 17 (Reuters) - An appeals court has halted operations at a 350 megawatt Endesa Chile plant in the south of the Andean country to study a request by local fishermen who say the coal-fired complex has polluted the area.

The Concepcion Court of Appeals will likely issue its ruling on the Bocamina II plant in two to three months. The dispute could well end up in the Supreme Court, based on recent history.

Local fishermen say the plant, located in the Bio Bio region, has harmed local fish species by polluting the water and air. The community movement seeking to shut down the plant includes one of the region's senators, left-winger Alejandro Navarro.

In response to the court's decision to halt operations, leading Chilean electricity generator Endesa said it was analyzing legal avenues for the suspension to be lifted.

"The plant's operation has not had an environmental impact different to what was outlined in its environmental permit," Endesa said in a statement. "The plant is of crucial importance during a fourth year of drought, as it makes up for lower hydropower generation and stabilizes spot (power) prices."

The freeze is another blow to power generation in Chile, where increased opposition by social, indigenous and environmental groups have put many projects on ice.

Endesa's 128-megwatt Bocamina I plant isn't affected by the legal action.

An estimated 8,000 megawatts need to be added to Chile's 17,000 MW of power production capacity by the end of the decade, the government says.

Shares in Endesa were trading down 0.93 percent on Tuesday afternoon, underperforming a 0.23 percent fall on the wider blue-chip IPSA stock index.

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