Oil-drilling intrigue: State works with oil companies to overturn court embargo

The Portuguese State is working with oil companies GALP and ENI to overturn the court embargo on oil drilling off the coast of Aljezur.

Despite overwhelming public opposition to the plan, the government is standing firmly with ‘the other side’, having lodged an appeal against the embargo issued by Loulé’s administrative court on August 13.

Putting pressure on the situation is a reported “threat” by ENI to claim €4 million in damages from the State if drilling does not go ahead within the planned time-frame. As far as media sources are aware, that means by the middle of September.

Says SIC television news: “for now ENI is not demanding an indemnity but has made it clear that it is only waiting for the definitive decision of the court to do so”.

The nitty-gritty of ENI’s purported threat centres on its contention that the DGRM (Direção Geral dos Recursos Naturais e Serviços Marítimos) may not have ‘fully complied with the law regarding the public consultation process’.

Activists see all this as a new ruse to allow the government to throw out the old (TUPEM) drilling licence and instantly issue a new one.

In doing so, the court case which resulted in the embargo would become irrelevant, and drilling once again would get the green-light.

But what has happened behind the scenes is that citizens group ASMAA has also filed for an embargo, on the tail of its class action taken out in the name of 42,000 people (click here).

Thus it may hold up the intrigue, or the power behind the intrigue will win.

There is nothing transparent in any of the recent developments.

Battling anti-oil group MALP – led by dedicated João Martins – warns that leaving the fight “dependent on decisions of the courts” has been “a crass error”, largely because the courts seem to change their opinions with increasing frequency.

The bottom line, however, remains the same, says Martins: “the Socialist government of António Costa battles in court in alliance with the oil companies against the wishes of citizens and the public interest”.