The government and its agencies, as usual, are not making life easy for these that want to comment and have never been exposed to such a public consultation before. We have become aware that there is massive confusion on what to do and how to do it, so we decided to step in to assist you in drafting an appropriate type comment to reduce outright rejection by APA.
It is important that you submit your comment to this public consultation process.
This public consultation IS NOT A PETITION. Its basically a review of Australis set of documents.
You have to read the docs and ARGUE one or more of their claims either in favor or against their claims. In doing so, you need to look at two things - the legal aspect as well as the technical aspect of their claims.
As most of you are not EXPERTS in either field - my suggestion is take one point that you disagree with in THEIR OWN DOCS.
HOW TO COMMENT: SOME MORE GUIDELINES
Currently we do not know who the "operator" will be, but Australis is the concession holder and they are the company that has the right to the concessions.
In order to comply with the contractual obligations for the concessions areas of Pombal and Batalha, they (Australis) need to drill one well in each of the concession areas in 2019. The only thing standing in the way of Australis carrying their contractual obligations currently, is a decision by the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA) to approve or reject their proposed Environmental Impact Study reports.
To assist APA in reaching a decision, the environmental agency decided to ask for participation by the public. This assistance takes the form of written submissions in the form of "comments" from interested individuals and organisations. This will enable APA to substantiate their final decision.
Australis has provided a set of documents for review that you can download - Batalha, and Pombal. The public has until November 27th to provide comments. To participate, you need to first register on the public consultation website.
The documentation pack for both concessions (Pombal and Batalha) supplied by Australis, is a total of 162 pages for both documents, and covers many of the impacts the project may have although they have ignored many others. But taking into account the time available to comment, how can anyone read that much and still provide valuable comments on the project?
Below are a few quick tips to help you review their submitted documentation in a structured manner, and which hopefully will assist you.
1. Start by reading and understanding the hierarchy of the EIS.
- The Australis documents that you need to review are:
Sondagem de Prospeção e Pesquisa de Hidrocarbonetos por métodos convencionais na Área de Concessão Batalha. (Documento de Proposta de Definição do Âmbito do estudo de impacte ambiental (PDA) e;
Sondagem de Prospeção e Pesquisa de Hidrocarbonetos por métodos convencionais na Área de Concessão Pombal. (Documento de Proposta de Definição do Âmbito do estudo de impacte ambiental (PDA).
- We've anexed both documents to this guide, but you can also download it in the “participa.pt” website.
- Start by finding the Index section (pages 2 to 4) of both PDA documents. You will see a list of topic headers.
- Keep in mind that not all actions described in the document will cause irreversible harm regarding that particular portion of the drilling activity; instead, analyse the section that interests you and focus on these that you know will have an impact.
2. Focus on the impacts.
- In the beginning part of each section you will find some background information. As the information is presented, minimalist analysis is provided with a lot of qualifiers (“may”, “could” and “potential” are good qualifying terms).
- You have to look for the actual “impact statement” in the text. You need to identify it. “Unavoidable and Adverse Impacts” and “Irreversible and Irretrievable” resources lost.
- You will see many Australis claims about the fact that most of the impacts of the project are of the “local short-term” sorts, and many of those impacts can be avoided or reversed. These are their claims. Study them.
3. Focus on the area of impact that worries you the most.
- If you read at a rate of 1 page per 2 minutes, be prepared to put aside at least 8 hours of non-stop reading to completely read both documents.
- The documents themselves can be extremely technical and includes paragraphs on many diverse issues and topics, some in more detail than others.
- Even if you were to read the full document, chances are that one person alone is not an expert on all the topics covered, and the amount of time necessary to become an expert would likely surpass the comment period deadline. As a result, our suggestion is to focus on a specific topic or issue, rather than trying to address everything.
4. Focus on issues that you either have an expertise in, or are most interested in.
- Not everyone is interested in the number of jobs the project could create, or the types of mud material, or even what seismic surveys are.
- To quickly find what you are looking for, first use the tables of content, then open up a chapter and use the “search” or “find” function in your PDF viewer. This is a simple trick that many computer users haven’t yet learned about, but one that will greatly assist you. If you familiar with it already, you know how to use it.
5. Keep a list of terms and acronyms handy.
- You will find it on page 5 of both documents.
6. When writing your comments, keep in mind WHY YOU ARE COMMENTING.
- There are two ways to do it. The first way is to completely ignore the environmental report and write whatever you want. Asking a lot of questions and making unsubstantiated claims will make it a lot easier for APA to dismiss your comments.
- The second and preferred way is by thoroughly reading (a portion of) the environmental study proposed structure, cite specific portions of it, and providing credible research. Do your and their homework.
CHECKLIST TO HELP YOU
How Do I Effectively Structure my Comment?
- Use Headings
- Go section by section, and use descriptive headings.
- For example, "The proposed EIS structure document underestimated the effects of … on local communities."
- Focus on cause and effect. If you allege that the document provided does or does not do something, clearly connect the dots. For example, "The proposed EIS underestimated the effects of … on local communities because it failed to account for local investment in nature tourism based activities. On my guest house alone, I have invested over €_____ in improvements and structures that would be impacted when there’s an oil spill from a drilling activity. The proposed EIS does not account for these impacts."
Provide as Much Factual Support as Possible.
If you have support for your statement, cite to it! Whether it's news articles, scientific articles, or statements you've heard made by government representatives or by others. The more factual support you can provide, the more seriously your comments will be taken.
Point out Inadequacies.
Point out areas where the proposed EIS is not clear or is missing necessary information. State clearly that you were not able to analyze potential impacts of the decision due to the lack of information.
Focus on Environmental and Economic Impacts Separately.
While government is directed to consider the economic impacts of their decisions, hopefully APA will take environmental impacts more seriously. However, economic impacts are important and should be stated up front and clearly. Environmental impacts should be separately addressed, and should contain as much support as possible from outside studies, anecdotal experience, or other reliable sources.
Drafting Comments with Minimal Time
- If you do not have time to read the whole draft/proposed EIS (and who does?), try to focus on the key pieces: Those are usually the alternatives evaluated and the discussion of effects.
- Review comments made by others (work in coallition with others), and if their comments are relevant to you, incorporate them into your letter.
- Describes the existing condition and trend of the environmental attributes that could be impacted by the proposed action or alternatives.
- For purposes of the affected environment and environmental consequences section, environment includes the broad biological, physical, social, and economic elements of the environment.
- Effects can be ecological, aesthetic, cultural, economic, social, or health related.
- The proposed EIS should analyze long-term and short-term effects, and beneficial as well as detrimental effects.
- Should describe methodology and assumptions used to develop effects analysis in a manner that is easy for the reader to understand.
Direct and Indirect Effects
- Direct effects are those caused by the action that take place in the same time and place.
- Indirect effects are those caused by the action, but that are removed from the action in either time or place, but are still reasonable foreseeable.
- If a portion of the project does not require approval, but approval has the potential to impact the other portions of the project, the direct and indirect effects that could be influenced by the agency decision should be considered. Keep in mind that since it can be hard to tell if an effect is direct or indirect, the agency does not have to distinguish between them, and may consider them together in an EIS.
- Cumulative effects are the impact on the environment which results from the incremental impact of the action when added to other reasonably foreseeable impacts, whether they are the result of a government or non-governmental action.
- Takes into account the entire impact of the proposed project. If the non-governmental components have the potential to have a cumulative effect when combined with the government component, then all components of the project must be considered.
- Pay attention to the geographic scope and timeframe used to engage in the cumulative effects analysis.
BUT WHATEVER YOU DO. PLEASE DO NOT RANT! KEEP IT FACTUAL AND OBJECTIVE.