NRDC Calls on Costa Rican President Rodriguez to Reject Harken Energy Proposal to Drill Off Coast of Costa Rica

Group Says George W. Bush's former company would despoil 'biogem'

WASHINGTON (July 12, 2001) - A day before Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodríguez meets here with President Bush, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) announced it has joined with dozens of environmental, community and indigenous groups in Costa Rica to fight plans by Houston-based Harken Energy to drill off the country's Caribbean coast - and critical nesting area for endangered sea turtles and a habitat for rare dolphins. NRDC has included the Costa Rican province of Talamanca in its list of threatened natural areas in the Americas, what the group calls "biogems," alongside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Yellowstone National Park (see President Bush is a former Harken Energy board member and major stockholder, and has promoted energy exploration worldwide to meet U.S. demand.

"Harken Energy's plan is an attempt to export the flawed Bush administration policy of unlimited drilling," said Jacob Scherr, director of NRDC's International Program. "Harken is trying to do in Central America what the Bush administration wants to do off the coast of Florida and in the Arctic Refuge. At risk is not only the extraordinary biological riches of Talamanca, but Costa Rica's hard-earned reputation as an international environmental leader."

A broad coalition of community, indigenous and environmental groups called ADELA, city and county governments and the regional Catholic diocese all oppose oil development in Talamanca. Upholding a challenge brought by many of these groups, the Costa Rican Supreme Court has blocked the company's plans to drill in indigenous territories. But the company still wants to drill off shore.

"Harken is misleading Costa Ricans about the financial benefits of oil development," said Rodrigo Alberto Carazo, former Costa Rican human rights ombudsman and an ADELA spokesman, "and totally obscuring the severe threat drilling poses to the region's environment and economy."

The region's coral reefs, mangroves, sea turtle beaches, manatees, and more than 130 species of fish make the Talamanca coast one of the richest coastal ecosystems in the world. The tucuxi dolphin, which nearly always lives in fresh water rivers and lakes, has been discovered here in the sea, swimming and mating with the bottlenose dolphin. Sea turtles, which already are endangered, are especially at risk. Last February hundreds of leading sea turtle biologists signed a resolution opposing Harken's plans.

Costa Rican groups hope that collaborating with NRDC will bring the needed pressure in the United States to stop Harken. Since its launch in January, NRDC's BioGems project has brought international attention to many local environmental battles throughout the hemisphere, and has achieved victories in:

  • Belize: Duke Energy of North Carolina backed out of its plans to build a hydroelectric dam in the Macal River valley.
  • Guatemala: Anadarko, a Houston-based oil company, stopped exploration efforts in the Maya Biosphere Reserve
  • Chile: Boise-Cascade cancelled a wood chip mill in a sensitive temperate coastal rainforest.
  • British Columbia: The provincial government agreed to end logging in the Great Bear Rainforest.
  • Brazil: The Brazilian government closed an unauthorized road through Iguacu National Park.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related NRDC Pages

NRDC's BioGems site