In a shocking example of the government’s continuing refusal to listen to its electorate, while supporting its cherished energy companies, the Portuguese Environmental Agency announced this afternoon that the highly controversial Aljezur test-well, in an area already licenced to oil consortium Galp-ENI, will not be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment and hence drilling can go ahead later this year or early next.
Mysteriously, the Portuguese Environment Agency failed to identify "significant negative environmental impacts" in the test well project in the Alentejo basin, 46 kms off Aljezur in protected waters, and therefore has decided that no environmental impact analysis is necessary - the drilling can go ahead anytime between September 15th and January 15th, 2019.
"The project is not likely to have significant negative impacts," claimed a straight-faced Nuno Lacasta, president of the misnamed agency, on Wednesday, May 16, "This project does not require an environmental impact assessment, according to the law."
Nuno Lacasta said that opinions were requested from nine entities, including maritime authorities, and the National Entity for the Fuel Market (ENMC) which was hardly likely to disagree as it has been aiding and abetting the oil companies from Day 1.
All of Algarve’s Councils and several of those along the Alentejo coastline, plus dedicated environmental movements, business organisations and the Algarve’s regional tourist board, all are in total opposition to the search for oil off the Alentejo coast - as are the signatories to a record-breaking public petition of over 40,000 names - all have been ignored, sidelined, stonewalled and dismissed as inconvenient.
Well-reasoned public opposition has been shoved aside by an administration whose duplicity has been as astonishing as its star-struck teenage love affair with the oil and gas companies whose ability to 'influence' is long proven and insidious.
The Algarve region has one industry - tourism - which currently supplies well over 40% of the nation’s tourism-related tax income to the Treasury.
The environmental lobby and business community point out that engaging in oil exploration and extraction, risks harming the Algarve and Alentejo’s undoubted tourism success.
The obvious danger of oil spills harming tourism and wildlife, Portugal’s signature on international CO2 reduction agreements, the rapid development of Portugal as a renewable energy developer and generator, the toxic chemicals used in drilling, the underwater noise that dispels marine life and the lousy royalty deal the Treasury has been signed up for, should there be oil and gas in recoverable quantities, all should have led to a big ‘No’ when it came to authorising exploration.
Galp, famous for Galpgate and 'entertaining' politicians and civil servants, and ENI, the deeply corrupt oil company owned by the Italian State, cannot be said to form a sound and confidence-boosting partnership.
Despite the uproar of adverse opinion from those potentially affected, and the fact the original oil exploration deal was signed off by a former Energy Minister who now is being indicted for corruption involving millions in backhanders, the government again has ignored the will of those that its legislation directly affects.
It is "inadmissible," agree the anti-oil organisations, that no environmental impact study needs to be carried out before progressing with the oil drilling as, if there is no assessment needed for this highly industrial and damaging process, what, say the environmental lobby, are environmental impact assessments actually for?
Legal retaliation is expected from anti-oil organisation, ASMAA, alonside further opinions from ZERO, MALP and PALP as well as the Algarve mayors' group AMAL and business associations.
This shameful abuse of power by António Costa’s government makes it clearer that the links between the energy companies and politicians are as strong as they are covert.
A second press conference has been called for this evening by the Secretary of State for Energy, Environmental Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister at whhg which the government will explain why the drilling is to go ahead.