The Environmental Impact Statement –
Dealing with SETENA (National Environmental Office)
In the past couple of years the power of the Costa Rican National Environmental Office known locally as SETENA has become more evident. The Agency was created by the Organic Environmental Law (Law 7554) and it is adhered to the Costa Rica Ministry of the Environment and Energy (MINAE).
The sole mission of SETENA is the administration of the process to review and evaluate environmental impact considerations. Builders and real estate developers cringe when they hear the words SETENA.
The local Municipal government’s which are in charge of issuing building permits in many cases now require a ruling by SETENA before they will issue building permits on larger projects. It is virtually impossible in Costa Rica to begin any construction project without having to apply for an Environmental Impact Statement from SETENA.
How does this all begin ? Your first step is to complete the Environmental Evaluation form (D-1 or D-2) and submit the form to SETENA. Once they evaluate the information contained in the evaluation form they will inform you of the level of Environmental Impact Study that they will require.
If the evaluation reveals that your project classification is a B2 (low impact) then the procedure will end when the applicant submits a sworn declaration (DJCA) to SETENA agreeing to abide by the Environmental commitments that it has imposed on the project.
If the project evaluation is a B1 (moderate impact) then the applicant will have to submit a more extensive Environmental Management Plan (Plan de Gestion Ambiental PGA) which would set out the environmental protection measures to be undertaken in order to prevent, mitigate and or compensate for any environmental damages which may occur.
If SETENA determines that your project falls into the A category (high impact) then you must present a full blown Environmental Impact Study (EsIA). These studies can only be carried out by an Environmental Consultant that has been approved by SETENA.
The agency has been criticized in the past because of the long delays in issuing rulings which caused serious delays in the issuing of building permits. The current government has increased the staff at SETENA and has significantly reduced the existing backlog so that rulings are now issued within a reasonable time frame by Costa Rican standards.
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