The Brazilian Coastal Community That Stood United Against A Mega Thermoelectric Plant

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The year 2018 started with a great celebration for the community of Peruíbe, in the Southeast region of Brazil. Home to around 64,000 people, Peruíbe is now free from polluting projects. After a complicated legislative process, the municipal council finally approved an amendment to local bylaws that will prevent the construction of a thermoelectric plant in the municipality, which was projected to be one of the 50 largest in the world. This was a big victory for the people, who mobilized and fought for months to protect their home. If materialized, the project would have been one of the largest of its type in an urban area, in a region that is one of the last reserves of continuous Brazilian Atlantic Forest in the world.

This victory was only possible thanks to residents and various local groups coming together to put pressure on city councillors to block the project. The community of Peruíbe demonstrated awareness and strong articulation against the project since it was first presented to the society. Debating on the amendment to the municipal law started in late 2017 and the fight has been arduous. The amendment had to be presented several times to Peruíbe’s local council, because of obstructionism by some of the councillors opposing the amendment and inexplicable changes of heart by some elected in between sessions. Hundreds of residents attended the voting sessions, pressuring councillors to guarantee the quorum and finally approve the amendment.

“A month earlier we did not have all the necessary votes, but we were able to reverse the scenario thanks to the people who knew how to demonstrate their will to the councillors,” said lawyer Enio Pestana, a member of the Raízes group, one of the movements that started the fight against the thermoelectric.

The population of Peruíbe made clear what they wanted: true and fair development, with 100% clean, renewable and accessible energy for all.

On the final voting session, it was finally unanimously approved. It was an historic day for the future of the city. Hundreds of residents witnessed the vote and could finally celebrate the result. Between laughs, tears of joy, and hugs, everyone knew the value of this victory. While it was not easy, the community never stopped raising its voice and persisted from beginning to end.

Indigenous Guarani also strengthened the voices against the power plant, which would directly affect their territories. “We do not accept anything that harms our mother Earth. Our mission is to protect our environment and our home, and we will be united to the people fighting this project,” said Pajé Guaíra, leader of the Taniguá village of the Pieçaguera Indigenous Land.

Throughout the course of the process, the society pressured the Environmental Company of the State of São Paulo (Cetesb) to reject the application for licensing the project. The request was accepted and Cetesb denied Gastrading’s licence application and considered in its decision the popular resistance to the venture.

The controversial industrial project, worth five billion Reais (US$300 million), was proposed by the Gastrading Energy company and entailed the construction of a natural gas-fired thermoelectric plant, an energy transmission line, two underground pipelines, and an offshore port. The project, called — in a clear attempt at greenwashing — the “Green Atlantic,” would have had the capacity to generate up to 1.7 gigawatts of energy burning fossil fuels.

Peruíbe has clean and sustainable energy to spare and holds unquestionable tourist potential. More than half of the city’s territory is in a preservation area. With the construction of the thermoelectric power plant, its several beaches (some even untouched) would have been threatened. Indigenous communities, terrestrial and marine biodiversity, and fishermen communities would have been put at risk. The population of Peruíbe made clear what they wanted: true and fair development, with 100% clean, renewable, and accessible energy for all. Nothing more, nothing less.

“Peruíbe will be an inspiration to many communities fighting in defence of their territories around the world and especially now in defence of water. We cannot ignore that battles like this also strengthen the global Fossil Free movement, that aims for a world without climate chaos.,” said Nicole Figueiredo de Oliveira, director of Brazil and Latin America, an organization that actively supported the local mobilization.

By Nicole Figueiredo de Oliveira,

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