Government ministries reported to be “at odds over Algarve/ Alentejo oil exploration”

A surprising article has appeared in Expresso, suggesting the ministry of the environment is “at odds” over the energy ministry’s decision to extend gas and oil prospection contracts for three concessions along the Alentejo/ Algarve coast (click here).

Activists warn the story should be taken with a bucket of salt.

“The clue is in the last sentence”, explains CEO Laurinda Seabra.

“It alludes to the ‘government mantra’ that these contracts are only for research. They are not. They licence the concession holders for everything: research, production, commercialisation and even exit in up to 50 years time once the wells have been run dry.

“This article seems to be another step in the well-oiled PR machine, designed to placate the public while in actual fact promising nothing”.

The gist of the story is that the environment ministry “hasn’t liked” the fact that secretary of state for energy Jorge Seguro Sanches “prolonged the project for exploratory drilling along the Costa Vicentina”.

Even that terminology belies the fact that Seguro Sanches actually extended a contract that runs for 50 years.

Expresso continues, saying that APA, the Portuguese environment agency, is now insisting on an environmental impact study – something oil company ENI has complained is not necessary.

The bottom line of the article is that environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes insists that “Portugal is committed to de-carbonising its eonomy” and that “it will be doing everything to guarantee that fossil fuels will not be use in 2050”.

But he is equally insistent that contracts will be “respected… just like this concession for prospection – not exploration”.

It is that last sentence that activists say they can see through, as it makes “no sense”.

“It’s hogwash”, says Seabra. “This sentence or variants thereof have been used ad nauseam from the top of the government to the ENMC (energy licensing authority), but it’s ‘sand in people’s eyes’.

“The contacts, if allowed to go ahead, mean drilling – and they mean drilling this Spring”.

ASMAA adds in a post on this issue, that it does “not intend to sit quietly”, while fellow activists in MALP have called a demonstration for February 16 outside Loulé council to show their “indignation and revolt” over the situation.

“Drilling is scheduled for May!” The group warns, saying a total of nine drill sites are planned, from Sines to outside Lagos.

MALP appeals to “the entire population of the Algarve” to come out in force against “political bullying” that they say is “disrespecting” the combined wishes of the people.

The demonstration is scheduled for 4pm on Friday February 16, and, says MALP, “we all know oil exploration will destroy the environmental, economic and social sustainability of the Algarve”.

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