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New legal regulations will soon be in force to simplify requirements of Costa Rica’s National Environmental Technical Secretariat (SETENA) for new projects, businesses, and low-impact private developments.

On February 8, 2023, the government of Costa Rica executive branch announced and signed a new decree of the General Regulations for Environmental Evaluation, Control, and Monitoring. It becomes effective in August, four months after publication on April 19 in the official newspaper La Gaceta.

The new regulation defines all general requirements and procedures to determine the environmental viability of activities, developments or projects that by law may affect elements of the environment. It also establishes all of the preventive measures that project developers must implement, depending on the impact.

Franz Tattenbach Capra, Minister of Environment and Energy, stated, “The new regulation seeks to ensure a greater presence of SETENA in the field to verify compliance with environmental commitments. The country requires the conservation of natural resources and their rational and sustainable use. Still, it must also establish the necessary guidelines to contribute to investment and employment generation for economic reactivation.”

What is the D2 form, and when does it apply?

Currently, SETENA grants environmental feasibility permits in Costa Rica. The D2 form is required for all projects framed in the development plan for their commercial activity, whether agricultural, industrial, or construction projects. Depending on the project’s environmental impact, the D2 form must be completed. That includes low-environmental impact projects, which fall into categories C and B2.

New guideline

Government information indicates that last year alone, SETENA processed 1,644 D2 Files. The new guideline and regulation reform will eliminate the duplication of requirements at the institutional level. The bureaucracy and permitting process is simplified for new projects, businesses, and low-impact private developments.

Beneficiaries under the new guideline will include all improvement, repair and reconstruction projects executed by public or private infrastructure developers. They will no longer require SETENA’s green light concerning a project’s environmental viability, if they comply with the parameters established by the regulation.

The new reform clearly states that only low-impact projects will be exempt from filing the D2 form. Therefore, sufficient legal-technical environmental support is necessary to determine the viability or exemption of filing the D2 form before making SETENA requests.

Relevant changes in the new regulation:

Simplification of procedures and reduction of requirements for the project developer.

Greater weight on an environmental follow-up and monitoring model and the ecological fragility conditions of the project areas.

Cost reduction of up to 50% in Environmental Impact Studies for PYMES.

Reduced review deadlines for all forms and evaluation instruments on the part of the administration.

All improvement, repair and reconstruction works or projects carried out in public or private infrastructure do not require environmental viability.

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