San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

MARENA’s Dilemma: Environment or Energy?

The country’s fragile energy situation is preventing the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry (MARENA) from enforcing environmental laws in fear of contributing to power-rationing blackouts.

Last month, MARENA ordered the Ormat Momotombo Power Company, an Israeli firm that has a concession to operate the geothermal plant on Momotombo Volcano to shut down because it is contaminating nearby LakeManagua with its “highly-contaminating” runoff waters, according to a MARENA official.

Though the company had proposed to recycle its runoff waters in its original environmental-impact plan, it allegedly has only been recycling about 40 percent of the brine, discharging the rest into the nearby lake. MARENA, however, has been unable to enforce the measure because the country needs the energy the Momotombo plant is producing.

MARENA minister Juana Argenal recently told The Nica Times that the government is still in a legal process with the Israeli company.

“They have to do a remediation plan,” she said. “We don’t want to stop economic activity.We want to enforce environmental laws.”


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