Black Market Emerges for Gas in Monteverde

July 18, 2008

A black market has sprung up in Monteverde, an inland cloud forest preserve in the northwest, since the Environment and Energy Ministry (MINAE) shut down the town s only gas station last month.

The ministry closed the station because its storage tanks are more than 20 years old. Residents and officials say gas has been leaking into the ground water for roughly 15 years.

Fuel director Oscar Porras of the Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP) said the station is closed indefinitely until the owner installs new underground storage tanks that comply with national safety standards.

Since the ministry took action, residents and business owners have turned to the black market taxis, tourism vans and trucks ferrying gasoline from stations in Tilarán and Sardinal, both roughly 40 kilometers away to the east and west, respectively, via treacherous, unpaved roads of rock and dirt.

It s an emergency situation at the moment and everyone has turned to different methods to get gas, said Elizabeth Vargas of the Arco Iris Ecolodge.

Some of our staff go to pick up gas from Sardinal, said Michael Casada of Hotel El Establo.

Porras said what El Establo and others are doing is technically illegal.

You can t transport gas without the proper permits, he said. This is very likely causing environmental problems on the transit routes between Tilarán, Sardinal and Monteverde because of spillage from unsafe transport on rough roads.

Porras acknowledges, however, that his agency is taking no action to reign in the black marketers. He said maybe the Transit Police are taking action, but that agency did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Vargas said Monteverde residents and businesses must choose between the black market, which sells gas at about 200 colones above market value per gallon, and purchasing from an aboveground tank operating since an agreement between the National Emergency Commission (CNE), the Monteverde Tourism Chamber and the municipality was signed in nearby Cerroplano. That facility sells gas at about 100 colones per gallon above market value.

The legal status of this agreement is not clear.

Stations in Trouble

The Monteverde gas station, closed recently for having a leaking underground storage tank, is not the only gas station in trouble.

At least 24 others are currently closed throughout the nation for various violations, according to the Environment and Energy Ministry.

Stations in Trouble

The Monteverde gas station, closed recently for having a leaking underground storage tank, is not the only gas station in trouble.

At least 24 others are currently closed throughout the nation for various violations, according to the Environment and Energy Ministry.

 

nwilkinson@ticotimes.net

 

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