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ALMARGEM demands Environmental Impact Assessment for Algarve oil & gas drilling

coastALMARGEM – the Asssociation for the Defense of the Algarve’s Cultural and Environmental Heritage - has sent an official request to the Minister for the Environment demanding an environmental impact assessment be carried out covering the widespread hydrocarbon exploration activity along the Algarve’s coastline.

In early July the president of the Spanish oil company Repsol said, after meeting the President of the Portuguese Republic, that his company will begin in earnest drilling and exploring for hydrocarbons off the Algarve coast in 2015.

ALMARGEM says that it is "very attentive" to developments related to this process and that the existence of some concessions just 10 kilometres from the shoreline, the seismic and environmental risks inherent in the exploration process, the extraction and transportation of hydrocarbons and the possible construction of a gas pipeline between the Algarve and Sines are matters that are too serious for the public to be palmed off, dismissed and ignored without having a say.

ALMARGEM joins eco-campaigners Quercus in the fight for an environmental impact assessment, the vast majority of the Algarve's mayors remain adhered to their party instructions on the matter of oil and gas exploration, and the public has been slow to respond to the a potentially devastating threat to local tourism should something go wrong. 

The well respected association has sent an official request to Minister Assunção Cristas asking her to arrange immediate compliance with the clearly written laws covering the assessment of the effects of public and private projects on the environment.

"Although hydrocarbon exploration is not explicitly mentioned in this legislation, unlike mining operations, ALMARGEM considers it perfectly justifiable and desirable that an analysis is carried out."

The law states that projects that, depending on their location, size or nature, are considered "likely to cause a significant environmental impact,” should be subject to an environmental impact assessment covering the risk of accidents in sensitive areas, i.e. in the ocean.

EU law covering the safety of offshore oil and gas operations includes very specific points for the participation of the public in relation to the effects on the environment when hydrocarbon exploration is planned.

"These rules should, in whole or in part, already have been in play, especially in the case of the Algarve exploration concessions. The principles of transparency, access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environment issues are all enshrined in the Aarhus Convention," according to ALMARGEM.

Despite the raft of laws and rules, the Portuguese government has pressed ahead, issuing initial exploration licenses to oil companies without seriously considering the impact on the marine environment, or on the Algarve's tourism industry.

ALMARGEM expects the government to be sensitive to these and other arguments as so far the project has rolled along "without the prior discussions needed, using all available technical input to make a serious analysis of the risks associated with exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the Algarve."

The government's view, 'that if there is an oil spill, this will be a good job creation scheme' displays its real attitude to the Algarve's marine environment. This, and the childishly poor deal it has struck with Repsol where income to the state is a percentage of profit, not of turnover, means an environmental study urgently is needed.

The PM and President are happy to come south to the Algarve for their summer holidays, yet remain unconcerned that a Spanish company, and junior partner Partex based in the Cayman Islands, are able to operate without the public's views or opinions being taken into account. 

There are serious concerns about the environmental impact of drilling anywhere near the Açores/Gibraltar Fault Zone, concerns which never will be addresed if the government continues to treat the Algarve region as it currently is doing.   


See also: http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/3095-algarve-sleepwalks-into-unregulated-oil-and-gas-drilling

also: http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/3028-quercus-calls-for-algarve-oil-and-gas-impact-assessment

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