By 2019-09-11 InPortugal

Montijo airport decision won’t be swayed by PM’s “there is no Plan B” declaration

The decision on whether or not to accept the environmental impact study on the plan for Montijo airport will not be swayed by Prime Minister António Costa’s (fairly constant) declarations that there is no Plan B.

Nuno Lacasta, president of Portuguese environment agency APA, gave this message to the parliamentary commission on the economy and public works yesterday as the period for public consultation on this controversial project draws to a close (see below).

Lacasta stressed that a considerable number of people have taken part in the process, making it one of the most ‘participated’ in terms of online debate.

All contributions will now be analysed by the ‘evaluation committee’, which includes teams from APA and “other State services”.

Explains Observador (online news), Lacasta “rejected” the view that the government’s speech about the absence of a Plan B “would act as a pressure on the authority’s decision”.

The only pressure he feels exists is that of time – Portuguese law stipulating that a decision must come by the end of October.

“Always refusing to anticipate APA’s decision, Nuno Lacasta explained to MPs that he was restricted on making comments on eventual measures of mitigation and compensation for negative environmental impacts as he has to preserve APA’s technical autonomy”, adds Observador.

Some of these measures have been seized on by opponents to the plan (click here), leading prime minister Costa to reiterate his original stance, given when the government signed the 1.3 billion euro Montijo expansion agreement in January, that there are no alternatives (click here).

Lacasta’s comments yesterday suggest that there may have to be.

He stressed that the effects on habitats and protected species in the Tejo estuary will be “a central theme in the environmental impact evaluation”, adding however that concern about ‘bird strike’ (the potentially catastrophic collision between birds and planes) was “a matter for authorities that control airport security”.

Environmental NGOs Quercus and ZERO preceded Lacasta’s intervention, both of them highly critical of the project, and indeed the whole environmental impact assessment process.

ZERO has gone so far as to complain to the European Commission as it feels the assessment should have been ‘strategic’, which would have opened the issue up to greater scrutiny.

For anyone who has not yet taken part in the public consultation process yet, comments and opinions continue to be accepted until September 19 (click here).

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