Odemira council’s socialist party members have issued a statement about the impending oil drilling off the Alentejo coast and in the Algarve, which opposes exploration and extraction of oil or gas under concession contracts that have not been assessed for their economic, social and economic impacts.
The position statement has been sent to the ministers of the Economy and of the Environment as well as parliamentary groups.
The socialists conclude that such oil exploration activity is "highly detrimental to the local and regional interest, including environmental, economic and social risks in a county, which is based particularly on its nature tourism, fisheries and agriculture."
The statement also points out that there is a lack of "any clearly stated reason to proceed with the exploration or exploitation of hydrocarbons in Portugal, the Algarve or the Alentejo."
The position against oil exploration, expressed in a council meeting on January 5th, 2017, comes as a result of some sharp criticism from the Alentejo Litoral por Ambiente movement which has questioned the council’s silence over the whole question of oil and gas exploration.
Luís Rocha, a member of the movement, expressed his surprise in an opinion article published on December 31st, 2016 in which he questioned the council, asking whether its silence was due to obedience to national party instructions, to the detriment of the local population that elected them, or down to ignorance, a lack of will or laziness, “but the truth is that they remain mute and silent."
The Alentejo Litoral por Ambiente association now has congratulated the socialist party representatives, "for their position in repudiating the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons off the Alentejo coast, taken on the January 5th.”
"We are now looking forward to the implementation of the measures presented by this group as a way to substantiate their position," wrote Rocha
The political position of the Odemira socialists comes two years after the Eni-Galp consortium obtained the Alentejo basin concession.
In April 2016, the National Entity for the Fuel Market, which under Paulo Carmona has become a pro-exploration spokesperson for the oil industry, confirmed that this consortium was intending to carry out a research survey, with "low probability of finding oil" and “with a duration of 46 days and at a cost of several million euros."
At the time, Odemira council said it was not commenting on the subject.
In May 2016, even before the public consultation process had taken place, oil services company Medserv announced it had been contracted by ENI to provide a logistics base and services associated with exploration activities in the Alentejo waters.
Also in May last year, Galp-ENI requested a drilling license from the Directorate General of Natural Resources, Safety and Maritime Services, stating that it was to use the drilling vessel "Saipem 120000" at a point 46.5 kilometres from Aljezur and 88 kilometres from Sines.
At the end of July, Galp's boss huffily claimed the test drilling has become unfeasible due to an extension of the public consultation deadline and the approaching winter weather.
Meanwhile, national and local environmental groups, including Alentejo Litoral por Ambiente, have been pressing the government to issue an official statement on its plans for the nascent oil industry and its purported cancellation of three oil and gas exploration contracts in the Algarve.
The anti-oil exploration association, ASMAA, says it "welcomes the anti-oil exploration position that Odemira council finally has taken, and looks forward to the council’s support in the anti-oil fight that is scheduled to increase this year."