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Odemira injunction halts Galp-ENI oil drilling

oilrigtransportOn May 2nd,  a Portuguese court accepted the anti-oil drilling injunction application that had been submitted by Odemira council two weeks prior.

The court acknowledged that the submission “had valid arguments” and therefore has accepted it in full, thus suspending the oil drilling plans of Galp-ENI.

The injunction has been lodged to attempt to stop the first offshore well to be drilled by Galp-ENI, scheduled to occur between April and June 2017, at only 10 day notice.

This application does not eliminate the risk, as the TUPEM licence granted by the State on 11 January 2017 is valid until 10 January 2019, but it is a significant step forward in challenging the government-sponsored oil and gas exploration activity which remains counter-intuitive to Portugal’s CO2 reduction targets, alternative energy development and tourist development drive.

Although there is still a way to go, Odemira mayor, José Alberto Guerreiro, says he is "convinced that we are right and that we will be able to stop the process."

Laurinda Seabra who heads ASMAA, the campaigning association that has driven the anti-oil and gas agenda, urges a note of caution over today’s news:
“... we need to keep in mind that it’s only the application that has been accepted, the (anti-drilling) injunction has not yet been granted.

“We also need to understand that preliminary or temporary injunctions are not conclusive as to the rights of the parties, they do not determine the merits of a case or decide the issues causing the conflict.”

“Injunctions are legal tools to prevent threatened wrong, further injury, and irreparable harm or injustice until such time as the rights of the parties can ultimately be settled.

Preliminary injunctive relief ensures the ability of the court to render a meaningful decision and serves to prevent a change of circumstances that would hamper or block the granting of proper relief following a trial on the merits of the case.”

However, a motion for a preliminary injunction is never granted automatically. When the discretion of the court is in favour of a temporary injunction, this maintains the status quo until a trial.

ASMAA and anti-oil and gas supporters will be delighted at the news. The acceptance of the injunction as being valid has put the Galp/ENI drilling plan on hold until such time as the court hears the case and makes a full judgement as to the validity of the oil company’s proposed activities.

Seabra adds, “Today is a happy day, it’s a day of celebration for all that are actively involved in this cause, it’s another small step, some more ground has been gained in this fight for motivating the government and the oil companies to do the right thing to ‘keep the oil and gas in the ground’ - the fight is far from over but this is another small victory.”

The ASMAA founder continued, “Our fight will only stop when all the oil and gas exploration contracts are rescinded, and when all the current concession areas are cancelled nationally, both onshore as well as offshore. Cancelling contracts on its own is not enough if the concession areas remain open, as we then run the risk of new contracts being signed in the future.”
“But for now, we celebrate … if nothing else we have bought some time and have prevented the drilling from going ahead as planned in the next few weeks … another small victory!”

The intense irritation caused by the anti-oil and gas movements across the Algarve and now up the west coast is palpable within various government departments and ministries.

The deft legal challenges by campaign groups and councils are in danger of leaving the State’s latest ‘get rich quick’ scheme in tatters by exposing covert agreements, suspiciously low royalty rates and the folly of promoting the Algarve and Alentejo regions as tourist zones while allowing oil and gas exploration off its shores.  

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