Costa Rica is holding on to a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in its waters, despite growing legal problems. US-based Mallon Oil Company presented Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court on Sept. 7 with two injunctions in an effort to force the country’s government to allow the Denver-based company to explore and potentially drill for oil and natural gas off of the northern Pacific Coast.
But in August, President Laura Chinchilla’s government, through the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry, issued a three-year moratorium on oil and gas exploration and exploitation. The same environment minister who issued the moratorium two months ago, René Castro, had awarded the permit to Mallon, a subsidiary of Black Hills Corporation in 2000.
Chinchilla, who took office in May 2010, said the country was focusing on means of energy other than hydrocarbons, and that the environmental risks outweighed the benefit. Chinchilla also issued a moratorium on open-pit gold mining. Costa Rica has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2021.
There had been 200 appeals since the license was granted to block the company’s activity, most citing environmental risks. Now, the company alleges that it has been denied justice since some of the claims took years to resolve.
On Sept. 23, the Court dismissed one of Mallon´s injunction requests, saying that it would have to file a suit. It is still reviewing the other, against the National Environmental Technical Secretaria for requiring it with a new environmental impact study.