The federal government announced Thursday that construction of a controversial thermoelectric plant in Morelos will recommence.
President López Obrador said the state-owned plant, located in the municipality of Yecapixtla, is expected to begin operations at the end of the year.
“The work to build the thermoelectric plant in Morelos will restart. The project was suspended because of the demands of farmers [and] residents of the communities of that region. It’s a project that started several years ago [and] it was practically finished; there’s very little left to do for it to [start] operating,” he said.
The government held a public consultation on the plant in February last year that found 59.5% support. López Obrador told reporters at his regular news conference this morning that there are no legal impediments to it going ahead.
“We believe that everything is resolved, that there is no legal problem. All the injunctions [against the plant] were resolved, there is now a plan for this thermoelectric plant to begin operations at the end of the year.”
Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) director Manuel Bartlett noted that Morelos is one of just a few states that don’t have the capacity to generate their own energy and therefore the completion of the thermal plant was important.
He said the 20-billion-peso (US $930.7 million) plant will have a 642-megawatt capacity and that its operation will not affect the quantity or quality of the local water supply, as opponents claim. It will never draw water from the Cuautla River as it will use recycled water from a nearby wastewater treatment plant to generate steam, Bartlett said.
Interior Minister Olga Sánchez said studies have shown that the operation of the plant won’t affect the local water supply.
“As there was no valid suspension [order] related to the construction, the National Water Commission granted the permits to the CFE. … All the injunctions are resolved and the project can legally continue,” she said.
But one community leader in Morelos quickly challenged the government’s assertion that all legal impediments have been removed.
Jorge Zapata González, grandson of Mexican Revolution hero Emiliano Zapata, said that not all injunctions against the project have been overturned and asserted that the majority of communities, communal landowners and private landowners in the east of Morelos remain opposed to the plan.
“Right now we’ll start with the organization to defend our land and water because they’ve already organized themselves to go ahead with a plant we’ve always rejected. What the president says is one thing and what the people decide is another,” he said.
Zapata said the members of 32 ejidos (cooperatives) and 12 owners of small lots are involved in legal action against the plant, located about 60 kilometers southeast of Cuernavaca in the town of Huexca.
He said if legal action in Mexico fails to stop the plant, its opponents could still take their case to international bodies.