The justices unanimously dismissed the arguments presented by the plaintiffs against the environmental permits obtained by the company to operate its farm.
The court validated environmental improvements to the treatment of slurries at these facilities and dismissed potential odor nuisances and negative health impacts.
In a resounding and unanimous ruling, the Second Environmental Court of Santiago ruled that the operation of San Agustín del Arbolito farm, owned by Agrícola Coexca and located in San Javier (Maule Region) complies with the law and all environmental provisions that govern its activities. The court also specified that citizen challenges to the granting of authorizations for the operation were not valid.
Presided by justices Cristián Delpiano, Alejandro Ruiz and Fabrizio Queirolo, the court validated the environment permits granted for the operation of the farm, as it uses state-of-the-art technology and equipment that significantly reduce the negative externalities of this type of facility.
After the Regional Commission of the Environment approved the Environmental Qualification Resolution (RCA 225/2019) in 2019, accepting the company’s proposal to optimize the slurry treatment system of these facilities, Teresita Herrera, Ramón Romo, and Jacqueline Abarza appealed to the Executive Directorate of the Environmental Evaluation Service (SEA) to challenge the decision. However, after analyzing their arguments, the agency’s Executive Director dismissed the three claims, confirming that the farm complies with each and every legal and environmental provision and adopts advanced technologies for slurry treatment that reduce potential negative externalities and make this unit one of the most advanced and sustainable in Latin America.
Given this scenario, the plaintiffs filed a claim before the Second Environmental Court of Santiago, which rejected each of their arguments. “It is concluded that both RCA 225/2019 and Exempt Resolution No. 202099101438/2020 comply with the law given that, as has been demonstrated in the judgment, the citizen observations of the plaintiffs were duly considered and that other defects reported were not correct. For all these reasons, this claim will be rejected,” the ruling states.
In its resolution, the court also confirms that the company has worked to optimize the environmental management of the farm when compared to the first Environmental Qualification Resolution granted in 2008. The decision adds that environmental improvements included the installation of a biodigester to treat slurries, a forced ventilation system, and chimney vents in each of the farm’s 24 pens, as well as other measures to catch up with parameters set by the European standard, one of the strictest worldwide. “The sum of the environmental impacts of the original project and of the modification project result in a decrease in said impacts, as the change to the slurry treatment system allows to reduce or eliminate the environmental impacts of the original project in terms of odors, constituting an improvement of its environmental performance,” the ruling declares.
The decision states that replacing the lagoons with a biodigester constitutes an environmentally positive change, adding: “the installation of forced ventilation tunnels and stacks for evacuating gases from the pig farms constitute measures that are among the best available techniques.”
Similarly, the court dismisses that the farm’s operation poses a risk to the population’s health due to the quantity and quality of odor emissions, which was validated by both the Undersecretaries of Health and the Environment. It also rules out any damage to the “Ciénagas del Name” wetland, 17 kilometers away from the farm, or to the Purapel River.
A DEFINITE JUDGMENT
After the ruling, Agrícola Coexca’s Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Manager, Carlos Montoya, commented that the justices’ decision confirms that the company has made significant investments and has been working on reducing the environmental impacts and negative externalities of its operation as much as possible by using state-of-the-art technologies. “The court acknowledges that there is an environmental improvement compared to the original project that will translate into lower odor emissions. Even further, the court acknowledges that the farm’s odor emissions are similar to the limits set for similar facilities in urban areas of developed countries in Europe,” Montoya explained.
The company representative said that the ruling confirms that Coexca has always operated within the law, avoiding any inconveniences to its surroundings, people, and caring for the local natural resources. “We are pleased with this ruling of the Environmental Court of Santiago. For now, we just want to reiterate the company’s commitment to the development of people, the region, and the country,” he concluded.