The Loulé Administrative Court has issued a ruling today, suspending the Galp-ENI consortium’s TUPEM licence which now is invalid.
The 'Título de Utilização Privativa do Espaço Marítimo' licence was challenged by the anti-oil, Platform for an Algarve Free of Petroleum (PALP), which had asserted that the oil and gas drilling licence issued to Galp-ENI was invalid and that it should not be allowed to drill a test well in the ocean floor off Aljezur.
The Court has issued its preliminary ruling and, as a result, has suspended the TUPEM licence, apparently agreeing with PALP that it should never have been issued.
In addition, the Loulé Court told those involved in the search for oil and gas, not to proceed with any preparatory work and that there certainly must be no attempt to start drilling.
Galp-ENI managers had expected to be contract the 'Saipem 1200' drilling ship (see below) to start work this September.
PALP’s Ana Matias said to Sul Informação this morning the association had lodged the precautionary measure against the Ministry of the Sea and the Galp-ENI consortium, so as to halt the TUPEM licence which had authorised the test well hole to be drilled from September, despite environmental concerns and a 42,000 signature petition demanding the government's oil and gas programme is halted.
“We asked that all work be suspended until the sentence comes out, which was today. Fortunately, the judge ruled that the TUPEM license was wrongly assigned,” said Matias.
Laurinda Seabra from ASMAA, which has been campaigning to stop all oil and gas exploration and drilling along Portugal’s coastline and onshore, said of the suspension,
“It’s very good news, because it means that the drilling continues to be embargoed, but until when will the embargo be? - that is a question for which we do not have an answer at this stage.
“Once we have had access to the court decision we will be in a position to analyse it and get a better idea of what it means.”
Seabra warns that the drilling has not been stopped for good as the Court has only issued a suspension, not a full ban,
“So, we can’t relax now and think it’s all over, because it is not. It’s only suspended. A luta continua!”
PALP received praise from fellow activist organisation, MALP (Movimento Algarve Livre de Petróleo),
"It is a huge defeat of the government of António Costa and against all those who wanted to go ahead with oil exploration in the Algarve. And it is a huge victory for the citizens who have remained firm in the fight against the exploration and extraction of oil from the Algarve. Now it is necessary to end these oil exploration contracts along the Costa Vicentina. Congratulations to the Algarve Free of Petroleum Platform. Tearing up these contracts 'in the public interest' is what we have to do now."
As fo Galp-ENI's reaction, "The most expected is that they will appeal and we will now bring the main proceedings to court, which is expected to be filed next month," PALP's Manuel Vieira said, referring to the possibility the Galp/ENI consortium appealing against today's decision to cancel the license for the Aljezur test well.
This Court decision is bad news for the government whose oil company buddies had expected a smoother ride.
The President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, visiting the Algarve last weekend, said of the region's total rejection of the State-imposed oil exploration and extraction programme, that he would go away and think about it.