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Vila do Bispo council in historic vote against oil and gas exploration

oilonshorerigVila do Bispo council, one of the smallest in the Algarve region, has approved a motion against oil and gas exploration in the Algarve, an almost lone voice among its fellow Algarve councils which continue their suspicious silence over the threat to tourism and to the Algarve's natural green and blue assets.

The Vila do Bispo assembly voted by a large majority for the "head-on opposition to the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the Algarve, particularly in the municipality of Vila do Bispo and the adjacent sea."

The Left Bloc initiative pointed out that there are no safeguards or conditions to begin the process of oil or gas exploration in the region and that there is a complete absence of an evaluation of the economic, social and environmental impact. Also, there has been zero public consultation.

The Left Bloc motion received 16 votes in favour and three abstentions and managed to encapsulate the anti-oil movement objectives and campaigning thrust with this historic proposal and vote.

The motion explained that the "National Authority for the Fuel Market granted exploration rights for the exploitation of hydrocarbons (oil and gas) in the Algarve, both on land and at sea" and that "the Vila do Bispo municipality is directly affected by these concessions, particularly on land, with the granting of the ‘Aljezur’ bloc to Portfuel. This bloc covers over 80% of Vila do Bispo’s territory. At sea, concessions have been sold to the Repsol/Partex partnership and to Galp."

According to the document presented by Sebastião Pernes, the limit of the Gamba bloc is only 5 nautical miles west of Cape St. Vincent, while Lagosta is only 9 nautical miles south of Sagres.

The Left Bloc proposal said that "there has not been, as far as we know, any kind of environmental impact assessment, which is at the very least strange in the case of areas protected both nationally and at European level."

The previous government said that an envronmental impact assessment was not needed as the offshore areas were 'too far away' to warrant one, and the onshore drilling would need one only if fracking was to be authorised.

The decision of the previous government "raises serious doubts as to its compliance with the various European directives relating to the sea, among others the Policy Marine Strategy Framework (2008/56 / EC) for good environmental stewardship of the marine environment, Directive 2014/89/EU to the MSP, or Directive 2006/113 / EC on the quality of water for shellfish and molluscs," adds the motion.

The government's decision to grant oil licenses “did not take into account the economic impact on activities that support the regional and local economy, such as tourism, fishing and aquaculture, which are impacted negatively by the various stages of the oil process, not excluding the risk of an accident. Nor have adverse impacts on the quality of life and health of the public been analysed.”

The motion also points out that "the entire process has been conducted in a covert manner and the affected populations and local representatives have not been properly informed or consulted."

"The exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons is based on an energy model that exacerbates climate change, while it is vital for the sustainability of human life on the planet to focus efforts and investments in the transition to clean energy."

The approved motion now will be sent to the Government, "in particular to the Ministers of the Economy and of the Environment, the National Assembly and its Parliamentary Groups."

The arguments and observations in the left Bloc proposal are the bedrock of the organisation PALP and the campaign group ASMAA, the latter having been pushing government to explain its actions in the light of legal and environmental concerns, one of them being the overriding of land zoning categories and the highly suspicious royalty rates should oil or gas be found.

The Algarve's mayors have refused to discuss the matter openly and the fear is that they have been swayed by promises of 'jobs' and oil revenues. Neither is likely to be the case and the probability of environmental damage will become a certainty if onshore drilling is allowed to go ahead.

Onshore fracking is another distinct possibility, a technology already employed with devastating effect by local businessman Sousa Cintra's company Portfuel in the US. This company has rights to drill onshore across most of the Algarve. 

The assurance by the previous government that an environmental impact assessment would be needed before fracking can go ahead in the Algarve offers little comfort to those aware of the technology's dangers to the Algarve's water supply and the consequent increase in earthquakes.

Whether the new Socialist government will continue down the reckless, selfish and misguided route of Algarve oil exploration remains to be tested.

In the meantime, Vila do Bispo council has 'grown some' and the hope is that other of the Algarve's councils will break their code of silence and vote on a subject that is crucial to the Algarve's single largest industry, tourism.


 The Left Bloc motion in Portuguese is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B35t42rPsngQQ1dWVGFwYkkwSlU/view?pli=1


The pictures below from the ASMAA Facebook site are from a drilling operation near Aljezur where activists were alterted by farmers as to suspicious activity:

It is not known whether this drilling was for water or oil...it remains a mystery.


"From what we've gathered so far, here are some bullet points:

•    multiple suspicious white trucks have been observed by all neighbours

•    the drilling took place over a week to 10 days starting around the 15th Nov and carried on all day long

•    we've got samples of the overflow hole next to the drilling and a nearby farmer has a sample taken after the drilling

•    considering the discarded rock layer samples, the tubes and the duration of the drilling I think it very unlikely that this was just a water well

•    all close neighbors EXCEPT the foreigners have been asked/harassed to sell their property to Sousa Cintra (owner of Portfuel)

•    unfortuneately it seems that after the operation all equipment has been removed (we searched quite some time all over the place), so the precise depth of the drilling can't be obtained anymore, but only guessed at by the layer samples"








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