At least 20 environmental organizations and at least 70 individuals have signed a petition in which they claim that a moratorium on drilling for petroleum is fake.
René Castro, the new environmental minister, issued the decree Monday, the same day he moved into the job from his former post of foreign minister.
The petition calls upon Laura Chinchilla to established a moratorium that covers all exploration for hydrocarbons and any exploitation.
The petition says that there are verbal loopholes in the decree issued by Castro that might allow for natural gas exploration.
The issue is in the news because a U.S. firm, Mallon Oil, has emerged victorious from a 10-year legal battle with environmentalists. It was the
winner of a concession in 1999. But now Costa Rican officials do not want to follow through on the concession and permit the company to explore for oil and gas in the northern zone.
Costa Rica imports all its petroleum. Another U.S. firm is in court because Costa Rican officials pulled the rug out from under its plans to explore off the Caribbean coast. That was more than nine years ago. That company, Harken, says it may seek compensation from international arbitration if court appeals fail.
Ms. Chinchilla has said that she would accept natural gas exploration but not the same for oil.
The Spanish-language press has speculated that Costa Rican officials want Mallon out of the away so that a joint Chinese-Costa Rican consortium can search for the petroleum. Involved would be the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo, the country’s motor fuels monopoly.