Lisbon offices of the ENMC (the entity that authorises oil and gas drilling) and the DGEG (department of energy and geology) were searched earlier this week by PJ criminal police, on the basis of a ‘complaint’ made by Algarve anti-oil campaigners ASMAA.
The news released today by the tabloid press has taken even ASMAA by surprise.
“We were beginning to think they hadn’t done anything about it”, said the association’s CEO Laurinda Seabra, the woman whose name has come synonymous with the civic fight to force the government to tear up contracts for fossil fuel exploration throughout Portugal.
The development, however, is timely.
ASMAA’s ‘case’ which accompanied its ‘complaint’ is finally due for its preliminary hearing in Loulé next month. It was presented, however, almost a year ago (click here).
The arguments put forward contend that the very law underpinning every contract that has ever been signed (including those that have since been rescinded) is illegal.
As the non-political association concedes, the now very publicised searches (they apparently went ahead last Wednesday) could be indication that the government may be ready to use any excuse to avoid following through with the contracts still seemingly ‘on the table’: those focused on onshore drilling for natural gas in the areas of Batalha and Pombal, and those for three large offshore blocks on the Costa Vicentina, which companies GALP and ENI say they no longer want but which nonetheless continue to exist.
The civic fight against opening the doors to fossil fuel exploration at this 11th hour in environmental terms may have taken a while to pick up steam but it has reached exponential throttle, with interior communities that never before addressed these issues now champing at the bit against them.
Thus these searches could signal some very good news.
“We have to keep our fingers crossed” said Seabra.