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Government keeps backing oil and gas exploration

Published on 18/12/2018

Members of the Algarve Free of Petroleum Platform (PALP) met yesterday with the newly installed Secretary of State of Energy, João Galamba, to question the existence – and ask for access – of the document confirming the resignation of the Galp and ENI from the contracts for the Aljezur oil drill.

The Platform also questioned the Secretary of State on the new Ministry’s strategy regarding the energetic transition that was recently included in its competencies.

According to information published by the media on October 29th, the “Ministry of the Environment confirmed (…) that the ENI/Galp consortium presented (…) a letter requesting the waiver of the prospecting agreement, research, development and production of oil for the areas known as “Santola”, “Lavagante” and “Gamba””.

PALP considers it is crucial that this document mentioned by the media, whose existence was confirmed by the Secretary of State of Energy, is made public.

PALP requested immediate access to this document and will have no alternative than to file a complaint with the Commission for Access to Administrative Documents (CADA) if the document is not published.

Previously, and soon after the publication of the news about the withdrawal, PALP followed-up with a request to the Directorate General of Energy and Geology (DGEG) that has not yet been dealt with.

As to why the contracts (renounced, in the meantime) still appear on the website of this entity as “active”, PALP was informed that this is a matter of formality and that they will only be withdrawn on January 31st, 2019, when they expire.

Asked about the intention of the Government regarding a revocation or proceeding to fundamental changes to Decree-Law nº 109/94 – which is the basis of these contracts – the Secretary of State confirmed that this is not part of the Government’s plans.

PALP cannot fail to express its frustration at the lack of political will to repeal a decree that intends to, “give a new impetus to oil prospecting and research and, consequently, to development and production” and to provide “simplified administrative procedures and establishing clear rules for the exercise thereof in a manner consistent with the reality and practice of industry.”

PALP deplores the inertia of a Government which has publicly announced that it has concrete targets for achieving carbon neutrality and has issued a moratorium on oil and gas exploration.

We therefore place reservations on this Government’s engagement with international commitments, especially when taking into account the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that drastic changes at global level in the near future (10 to 12 years), in order to “mitigate the harmful effects of global warming on the environment, health, biodiversity, food production and living conditions.”

Also in this regard, it was anticipated that the National Energy and Climate Plan (PNEC), which does not foresee a ban on oil research and production, will be submitted to a broad public discussion in early 2019. Again, PALP cannot fail to express surprise at how this omission is intended to be linked to the Government’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, which will always entail a very sharp cut in emissions.

There was also an opportunity to question the Administration about the “Batalha” and “Pombal” contracts in the centre of the country, which were celebrated between the State and Australis Oil & Gas in 2015, four days before the legislative elections.

It is important to remember that the company intends to drill two holes in 2019 inland in the Aljubarrota and Bajouca areas, and, just as happened in the Algarve, municipalities, associations and residents have been strongly in opposition. On this subject, and specifically on the contracts opening the possibility of fracking, it was only stated that the Ministry will not assign licenses for this deeply damaging activity, nothing more having been advanced.

PALP remains in court seeking the suspension of the Title of Use of Maritime Space (TUPEM) assigned to the concessionaires. This process, which directly targets the Ministry of the Sea and the concessionaires, remains in effect so all donations are welcome to cover legal costs.

More info on https://crowdfunding.palp.pt.