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Government fails to have oil drilling ban lifted

MinisterSeaVitorinoGalp-ENI’s oil and gas exploration test well, planned for an offshore location 46 kilometres due west of Aljezur, remains suspended after a Loulé court upheld PALP’s May 24th challenge to the Ministries of the Sea and of the Economy.

According to PALP, the Administrative Court of Loulé, in an order signed on June 29th, considered that the arguments put forward by the Ministries were not sufficient to allow the drilling to commence.

There already is a ban in place but the Ministries challenged it – and failed, meaning that the consortium’s activities remain frozen until there is a final court decision.

On May 24, PALP argued that the challenge by the Ministries, by way of a Grounded Resolution - a special administrative act used by the Government to lift a ban if it can prove it’s detrimental to the public interest - was based on a false statement which confuses 'public' with 'private' interests and deliberately omits certain key aspects.

The arguments used by the Ministries included suggesting the consortium would sue the government if it could not go ahead, that the licence was for exploration only when in fact it is for exploration and production, that an environmental survey was not needed as the drilling operation was ‘low-risk’ when it isn't, that the investment was being paid for by the consortium when in fact it is fully reimbursed by taxpayers, that there would be a ‘loss of jobs,’ when the consortium already had explained that no more than 30 temporary posts would be created.

Another argument used by PALP was that there are several state entities (universities, institutes, foundations) that also conduct geological research without the risks associated with test well drilling.

The Ministries' argument managed also to confuse everyone by stating that the original ban was due to court action "by the Municipality of Odemira," when it was PALP’s court action.

In a further PR blunder, Minister of the Sea, Ana Paula Vitorino, (pictured) attempted to quell fears over drilling muds, oil and other related pollutants reaching the Algarve or Alentejo shorelines by assuring the anti-oil lobby that any liquids would be borne south on the prevailing Canary Current - so named as this current heads straight for the Canary Islands.

"Any contaminant that could result from the drilling should be transported directly south and away from our coast, following the Canaries Current, so this shouldn’t affect our coastal resources," explained Vitorino, to the astonishment of the Canary islanders who spent years campaigning to halt Repsol from drilling in their pristine waters.



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