Anti-oil campaigners mount new legal challenge to stymy drilling off Aljezur coast

In another heroic bid to ensure public opinion is taken on board, ASMAA – the campaigning Algarve civic group fighting plans to turn the coastline into a drilling field – today lodged a 126-page legal bid at the Attorney General’s office, demanding an immediate block on any activity in the Alentejo basin.

The 500-paragraph challenge essentially maintains that the various concessions show “inumerous illegalities” in the way they have been awarded – starting first with the Galp/ ENI Santola field, due to begin drilling within weeks.

ASMAA’s push comes at exactly the right time. A bit like the group’s efforts to win further public consultation last year, it throws a perfectly aimed spanner in the logistical works.

Any delays in Galp/ ENI’s ‘go ahead’ now will more than likely lead to the companies abandoning their plans, as so many other variables are involved: not least the use, and hiring, of the drilling ship.

In a brief public statement today, ASMAA explains that it is invoking the unconstitutionality of the contract for Santola, principally due to “substantial alterations of the contract through illicit addenda, fiscal fraud, ruinous management of surface rental income and the fact that there are no (apparent) advantages for the Portuguese State”.

The fact that the contract was signed without recourse to environmental or economic impact studies, without measures to ensure public safety, people’s constitutional rights to a clean environment, quality of life and public health are all, in ASMAA’s argument, indication of gross negligence.

The group spearheaded by relentless Portuguese-South African Laurinda Seabra worked ‘night and day’ on this bid, planning its arrival at the office of the Attorney General just in time for the upcoming debate in parliament (on Thursday), when ASMAA will be representing the 42,000 signatures gathered against Algarve/ Alentejo oil and gas exploration to the parliamentary petition’s commission.

The group has organised a public demonstration for the day that already sees four busloads of protesters ready to take to the capital.

For anyone keen to get involved, see ASMAA’s website and Facebook page for more information.

[email protected]