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Chile: New Law Creates Ministry for the Environment, Other Environmental Agencies

(Feb. 17, 2010) Chile has enacted a new law that creates the Ministry of the Environment, the Environmental Evaluation Service, and the Superintendency for the Environment. It also contains other, less substantive amendments. (Ley 20417, amending Law 19,300 of 1993, the General Environmental Framework Law , OFFICIAL GAZETTE, Jan. 26, 2010, Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile website, available at

The Ministry of the Environment, which enjoys Cabinet-level rank, is charged with assisting the President of the Republic in the design and implementation of policies, plans, and programs for the protection of the environment; the conservation of biological diversity, renewable natural resources, and hydraulic resources; the promotion of sustainable development; and the integrity of environmental policy and its regulatory framework. The new Law sets forth the internal organization of the Ministry, including its subordinate units and staff members, together with their powers and responsibilities. (Id.)

The Law also creates the Ministerial Council for Sustainability, with the responsibility of providing assistance to the President in the areas of environmental protection; sustainable development; protection of natural resources, including marine parks and reserves; and the evaluation of the environmental impact of economic activities. Alongside the Ministerial Council, the Law sets up the Consultative Council of the Ministry of the Environment, with representation from the scientific, economic, business, labor, and other constituencies within the country. In addition, the Law creates the Environmental Evaluation Service, with the mission of administering the Environmental Impact Evaluation System. (Id.)

The Law furthermore institutes the office of Superintendent for the Environment, whose tasks are the enforcement of compliance with environmental laws and regulations throughout the country and the imposition of penalties. In this context, the Law includes provisions on strengthening environmental enforcement, ranging from guidelines on setting up enforcement programs, defining enforcement criteria, and performing scientific analyses — to collecting reports from industry, among other activities. It also establishes the National System of Environmental Enforcement Information as a publicly available database. (Id.)

Finally, the Law increases penalties and strengthens civil and criminal prosecution mechanisms for environmental violations. (Id.)