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Find Lawyers in Chile for Environmental Law

Practice Area Overview

The practice of environmental law in Chile has experienced an unprecedented growth in the last decade due to an increase in citizen participation and litigation in environmental-related matters and in no small part due to significant changes introduced in national environmental institutions.  These changes are a result of Chile’s accession to the OECD in 2010 and address its recommendation regarding the need to implement strong compliance and enforcement mechanisms.

Therefore, while Chile’s existing environmental framework regulation dates from 1994, significant amendments were introduced in 2010, which replaced the National Commission for the Environment with a Ministry of the Environment, and created a new National Compliance and Enforcement Agency (Superintendencia del Medio Ambiente) and a new Agency for Environmental Assessment (Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental). Two years later in 2012, a specialized Environmental Court was established.

In addition, the International Labor Organization’s Convention N° 169, in force in Chile since 2009, has had a major impact on indigenous participation in project development.

Challenges posed by this new scenario - where fines are nearly 300 times higher (maximum fines can amount to nine million dollars and permit revocation), executives may face liability for corporate breaches, and citizen participation is boosted - demand comprehensive strategic planning for project development.

Environmental law’s cross cutting nature encompasses a range of legislation and regulations, and legal counsel in this area includes the following:

  • Project development

Project development often includes counsel in project design, environmental impact assessment, citizen participation, and permitting.

Similarly, legal advice in this area will cover environmental aspects of business transactions, including due diligence and environmental aspects of EPC/Turnkey and BOT Contracts.

However, a finely tuned practice will also be able to anticipate regulatory trends in order to promote compliance and detect growth opportunities, as well as assisting regulated entities in participating in the legislative process of upcoming environmental regulations and standards.

  • Litigation

Typical environmental litigation includes constitutional actions, administrative claims, and civil litigation arising from environmental matters.

Increasingly counsel in environmental litigation comprises risk assessment and litigation support in environmental criminal law.

  • Compliance

Effective assistance in environmental and regulatory compliance begins by identifying gaps and deviations and developing compliance strategies.

Once proceedings before the enforcement agency have been initiated, support includes development of compliance programs and defense strategies prior and throughout the sanctioning proceedings. 

Cecilia Urbina Benavides

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Related Practice Areas: Energy Law, Natural Resources Law, Water Law
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