(San José, 3/3/02) -- After an almost 5-year dispute between environmental groups and two petroleum companies, the Costa Rican Government rejected the exploration of 4 inland and offshore sites in the country's Atlantic region. Two Ramsar Sites of International Importance, the Humedal Caribe Noreste and Gandoca-Manzanillo, are found in this region. The 'National Environmental Technical Secretariat' (SETENA), the government entity responsible for issuing the corresponding permit, denied the companies' request. SETENA indicated that the environmental impact assessment carried out by Harken Energy Corporation had "technical gaps" that did not guarantee clean exploration, while adding that the exploration proposal for the Caribbean coast "is not environmentally feasible". Environmental groups such as Oilwatch and the local NGO 'Association for Anti-petroleum Struggle' (ADELA) expressed satisfaction with the decision, while promising to continue seeking the repeal of the Costa Rican Hydrocarbon Bill (1996). The affected petroleum companies, Harken and MKJ Exploration, promised to make statements on the issue, and it appears likely that they will appeal the decision.
Julio Montes de Oca Lugo
Regional Assistant for the Americas