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Coastal Community of São Paulo Wins Fight Against Giant Thermoelectric Plant

How citizens of a small coastal city in Brazil knocked down a giant power plant and blocked future mega-polluting projects.

"It is truly a great example of how people power can fight and win for a Fossil Free world." (Photo: Daiana Lopes)

"It is truly a great example of how people power can fight and win for a Fossil Free world." (Photo: Daiana Lopes)

The city of Peruíbe, in the Southeast region of Brazil, home to around sixty-four thousand people, is now free from polluting projects. And this — it must be said — is an achievement of the community, who mobilized and fought to approve an amendment to local law that would prevent the installation of a thermoelectric power plant. If materialized, the project would have been one of the largest of its type in an urban in the world.

This achievement was only possible thanks to the union of residents and various local groups, who pressured rulers and articulated grievances to city councilors to bar the construction. It is truly a great example of how people power can fight and win for a fossil-free world.

The process of voting on the amendment to the law has been going on since last year. The project has been presented several times in Peruíbe’s City Hall, and during one of the voting sessions, the community was surprised by a political maneuver: six councilors “fled” the vote and the minimum of 10 votes was not reached for the final approval of the amendment. They kept their promise and the amendment to the local law was unanimously approved.

It was a decisive and historic day for the future of the city. The announcement of the final result was very exciting. Hundreds of residents followed the vote and could finally celebrate. Between laughs, tears of joy and hugs, everyone knew the value of this victory. And while it was not easy, the community never stopped raising its voice and persisted from beginning to end.

The controversial industrial project, estimated at R$ 5 billion, belongs to the Gastrading company and provides for the construction of a natural gas-fired thermoelectric plant, an energy transmission line, two underground pipelines and an offshore port. The project called “Green Atlantic”—which is anything but green—would have the capacity to generate up to 1.7 gigawatts of energy. Last December, the Environmental Company of the State of São Paulo had already denied Gastrading’s environmental license, but this is unfortunately not enough to prevent the construction of the plant once and for all.

Peruíbe has clean and sustainable energy to spare and holds unquestionable tourist potential. The region is one of the last reserves of continuous Brazilian Atlantic rainforest in the world, and 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 be threatened – as well as other key sites. Indigenous communities, terrestrial and marine biodiversity, and fishermen who have their livelihood, history and roots there could be put at risk. The population of Peruíbe has already made it clear what they want: true and fair development. 350.org Brazil supported this fight and together with the community of Peruíbe wants to construct a future with 100% clean, renewable energy.

This is not the first time the local community has gotten together to protect their home. About 30 years ago, Peruíbe’s community won a similar battle against the construction of a nuclear power plant in the region.

“Our love and respect for nature united us," says a member of the one of the movements that started the fight against thermoelectric power. And that, certainly, is what move us all to keep our hands up and our feet solid on this fight.

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Caroline Kwasnicki

Caroline Kwasnicki is digital coordinator of 350.org Brazil and Latin America.

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