Parliament today approved the suspension of oil and gas exploration off the Aljezur coast until an environmental and economic impact assessment has been submitted and reviewed.
This draft resolution, presented by the Portuguese Communist Party, at least stops the Galp-ENI consortium from drilling its first test well but leaves the door open for continued oil and gas exploration depending on the result of the assessment.
The second of today’s draft resolutions submitted to parliament, this one from the Left Bloc and the PAN party, called for an end to all oil and gas exploration onshore and offshore in Portugal. This was rejected, demonstrating that the Socialist administration remains fully behind Portugal as an oil and gas production zone with marginal benefit to the economy and an unquantifiable risk to the tourism industry.
Under new participatory legislation the local council's of Aljezur, Vila do Bispo, Lagos, Odemira, Santiago do Cacém and Sines all have pronounce themselves against the oil and gas exploration and extraction but this safely can be ignored by government as such opinions are purely advisory.
The Communist Party's proposal called for "the suspension of hydrocarbon exploration and exploration activities in the deep offshore of the Alentejo basin off Aljezur until the conclusion, dissemination and public discussion of environmental impact assessments and impact on other economic activities has been made."
This ‘suspension’ proposal was approved with the Communists, The Greens, PAN and the Left Bloc voting in favour as well as eight rebel Socialist party MPs, four of them from the Algarve.
Protestors gathered outside parliament. While hoping that a ban on oil and gas exploration would be approved, the suspension of the Aljezur drilling is welcome news at least and gives a breathing space for the various court processes in play to catch up with the oil companies' ambitions.
Laurinda Seabra, president of the environmental association, ASMAA, none-the-less was unhappy with the outcome of the vote on the resolutions,
"We were disappointed because we wanted to have a Christmas gift for the 42,000 people who signed the (anti-oil exploration) petition and for the Portuguese public in general," said Seabra.
Petra Pinto, from ASMAA's legal office, said the association is concerned "not only with the south-west Algarve and the Alentejo region but also with the contracts held by Australis for the onshore concessions areas Pombal and Batalha."
According to Pinto, the two onshore concessions in the central zone, are "five kilometers from Coimbra, which include several national heritage sites, namely the monasteries of Batalha and Alcobaça, the castles of Soure, Montemor-o-Velho and Porto Mós and the holy shrine of Fátima."
The anti-oil movement includes environmental associations, heritage bodies, the Intermunicipal Community of the Algarve, individuals and entities, as well as by the ASMAA that organised today’s protest.