Oil drilling in the Santola exploration area, off Aljezur, is to go ahead in September after the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) yesterday announced its decision on environmental impact.
The agency claims to have received opinions from nine public bodies, and concluded that, "the project is not likely to have significant negative impacts and therefore does not require an environmental impact assessment."
The opinions expressed in the public consultation, included in some 2,000 registered objections, "in general, were about oil exploration, which was not the matter for analysis" and therefore were not taken into account, according to the APA.
The Algarve's political parties today reacted, with the Social Democrats saying that the government now has 'oil on its hands' as it has deceived the Algarve's population.
The PSD-Algarve said that the decision made yesterday by the Portuguese Environment Agency, not to commission an Environmental Impact Assessment of the test well proposed by the Galp-ENI consortium, "is another long-awaited episode of unacceptable political hypocrisy on the part of the Government.”
The PSD said that the contract in question, signed in 2007 under the socialist Prime Minister, José Sócrates, “should be subject to scrutiny.”
The contract, say the Social Democrats, has been in force for eight years and has been renewed every year since 2016, despite the government agreeing to hand more decision making power to local Councils and claiming to be pro-alternative energy as per the Paris CO2 reduction agreement.
The party adds that, even after 42,000 people signed a petition against oil exploration, “transparency is denied,” as the result has been ignored despite the government saying it is acting ‘in the public interest.’
The PSD Algarve stated that it always has been against oil exploration as it has never been made clear how an oil industry could bring advantages to the region.
The Algarve Tourist Board, still under Desidério Silva until he is replaced in August, "regrets and once again rejects the decision of the Portuguese Environment Agency to ignore the risks and negative impacts that oil drilling off Aljezur may have.”
The Board stated today that, after several public consultations, “in which more than 42,000 people, including local authorities, showed their deep dislike for this project, the APA decided not to proceed with the Environmental Impact Assessment and the Government does not oppose this choice.”
The drilling off Aljezur, scheduled to start on 15 September, “will require the use of toxic substances and methods that can seriously damage human and environmental health.”
That is why, according to the Tourist Board, yesterday’s decision, "puts at risk the population of the Algarve, has a negative impact on tourism and seismic risks are heightened."
Desidério Silva said the decision was "disrespectful and shameful. The Algarve, which is such a natural territory, with a population so welcoming that it receives thousands of tourists every month, does not deserve to be disregarded. It is an affront that the Government denies the existence of negative impacts, not only for the environment but also for the inhabitants of the Algarve."
Anti-oil association, ASMAA, has issued “a call to action against this attack on our democratic, human and environmental rights ... let's make a clear statement to this bunch of politicians that appear to be interested only in addressing the oil and gas lobbies’ demands and, in the process, are intent on destroying our country.”
Plataforma Algarve Livre De Petróleo (PALP) expressed “disbelief and revolt at the decision of the Portuguese Environment Agency not to subject Aljezur's test well hole to an Environmental Impact Assessment."
The association asked, “Is it possible for government entities to continue to ignore the repeated challenges and questions from citizens, claiming a 'public interest' that has no public support. By exercising a discretionary power, which has clearly favoured the interests of the exploration consortium Galp-ENI, putting at risk the interests of the region and the population, the Portuguese government demonstrated yesterday that it is conniving with the oil companies and chooses to defend private interests to the detriment of the public, in a clear demonstration of collusion.”
The Algarve mayors’ group, AMAL, meets on Friday 18th and will issue a statement of opinion and any actions it is to take.
A well-supported anti-oil protest in Aljezur today included the presence of three of the region’s mayors who already are demanding that the decisions and arguments of those public bodies that supported the Environment Agency’s decision, be made public.