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Algarve mayors remain anti-oil - even after 'explanation' from Lisbon

oilonshorerigThe Algarve’s mayors have remained as one in defence of the Algarve as a ‘zero oil’ region.

The mayors group AMAL today reiterated its protest against oil and gas exploration in the region and promised to do everything possible to reverse the dodgy exploration licenses already granted under the previous government.

The head of the National Authority for the Fuel Market, Paulo Carmona, met the mayors today but his arguments failed to sway the group which now is fully aware that the region has been sold up the proverbial river with suspiciously generous contracts granted and sweetheart deals arranged with selected oil companies. 

"We disagree with the oil exploration model in the Algarve, we want a region of clean energy and an all-year-round strong tourism sector," said AMAL’s chairman, Tavira mayor Jorge Botelho, in a laudable statement after the two hour meeting.

In turn, Paulo Carmona, said that there will be no hydrocarbon extraction in Portugal before 2020, even if something was found in the next year.

Carmona added that if environmental impact assessments are negative, the exploration will not develop into extraction.

This last comment was particularly duplicitous as there has been an impact assessment exemption for exploration drilling and, should oil be extracted, the environmental report will be paid for by the oil companies and assessed by the same government body as granted the licence.

"There are no plans to use Fracking or other unconventional method in the Algarve", assured Carmona, but he was on loser as the mayors have sided with their voters who, now well aware that any oil or gas royalties will circumvent the region and go straight to Lisbon, are in fighting mode to protect the region’s natural landscape, tourism industry and water resources should Fracking be used, which inevitably it will.

Carmona’s bland assurance that the exploration contracts were ‘just to see if there is oil’ illustrated one of his main problems, that of treating people like idiots and expecting them to bow down before the might of the state.

The meeting had been requested by the Algarve mayors who wanted clarification on the two onshore exploration contracts covering 14 of the 16 municipalities in the Algarve.

These contracts had been granted and signed in secret without Carmona asking for any input from the mayors or local people, with Carmona earlier this week claiming that his organisation had been ‘transparent,’ when clearly it had been sneaky.

Anti-oil protestors had gathered outside the meeting place today as inside, the mayors were treated to a long overdue explanation of the licensing process and assurances that if the environmental impact assessments said ‘no’ then the oil companies would be prevented from extracting oil.

Nobody believes this as time and time again the government has abused this environmental impact study process and ignored serious risks and local complaint while granting building development licenses in places like Praia Grande, Salgados.

Jorge Botelho said the mayors were updated on the technical aspects of the oil licensing process but remained adamant that the Algarve’s direction is one of clean energy, a strong tourist industry and, above all, a region with a future based on sustainability and development.

AMAL will stick to its original aim to "use all means at its disposal to try to reverse this (oil exploration) process."

Carmona, having failed to persuade the mayors that there is anything in it for the Algarve, next takes his attempt at a charm offensive to the University of the Algarve on January 12th at a public meeting.

Carmona's position is not a good one as by sidestepping local involvement and signing away the Algarve’s rights and opportunity of self-determination, he represents a government that was intent on turning the region into an oil field both on and off shore.

 

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