It has been a hectic month campaigning all over the Algarve.
We’ve attended government run public consultation meetings in Aljezur and in Portimao. Listened to the hogwash that both the ENMC and DGRM representatives told both audiences. In between we provided a small contribution to the AMAL legal team for the two court injunctions being run by them.
We also accessed our politician’s viewpoints, from the right to the left of the political spectrum, and found them all speaking as one voice and saying on a regular basis that “we have to know our mineral resources” and to do that “we have to drill”. Basically they are all saying that the vocal opposition to offshore oil and gas exploration is immaterial in their opinion.
The oil companies and their lobbies have spoken and they (the politicians) will do as told and are now busy with a massive Public Relations campaign of misinformation and disinformation in an attempt to placate the very vocal local population.
In fact, the secretary of state for energy stated that the Algarve up-rise against the Portfuel contracts acted unfortunately as contagion to the spot light also being placed on the offshore contracts. I found his comment enlightening.
But I’m digressing.
On the very positive side, was the very well attended and effective campaign actions – from Aljezur to Tavira with an in-between stop in Loule organised by the various anti-oil groups, which saw in Tavira nearly a 1000 people participating. You can read more about it, see the various videos and hundreds of photos on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/asmaaalgarve/
I am now more than ever convinced that the real fight to protect our much-loved Algarve region has just moved up a few notches and we are entering a new phase in this fight. As the deadline for final opposing submissions for a licence to drill the first well by ENI/Galp in the sea opposite Aljezur quickly approaches (the 3 August), in a moment of personal reflection, I look back at why I started the anti oil and gas drilling campaigns a few years ago.
It’s a fact that I am a water baby, that I have spent a large part of my life in the ocean, and that as I grow older I can’t imagine my life without it or not living near it. It’s still my escape from my busy mind and the hectic schedule of running the association.
We can all relate to that feeling of being in awe of nature when we visit hidden places like these that you still find in Costa Vicentina, Aljezur, Tavira and Monchique, etc … so many places that are still fairly unspoilt, both inland and on the coast. I love our beaches, especially the ones hidden away in Costa Vicentina, which only the locals know about.
For me, having the Algarve as my playground has once again reinforced my respect for nature. I can’t imagine a life not wanting to protect it.
However our precious coastlines both on the west, south and east fronts, are facing a very serious threat. Portugal is witnessing the largest oil and gas exploration programme ever undertaken here and it’s starting in the Algarve. International oil companies like Repsol, Galp, ENI, Partex and Kosmos are all vying for a piece of our ocean resources and our government past and present are endorsing it.
With the first well to be drilled under the management of ENI, I believe its important to take a closer look at this company.
ENI has a long history of being embroiled in controversy; corruption allegations and even environmental and human rights abuse allegations. And the contractor to whom the drilling contract has been awarded by ENI, namely Saipem – just happens to be financially controlled by ENI – and much like its parent company, was also subjected to many misconduct allegations and even investigations across the world.
We have to ask, are these companies that inspire trust?
Link all the allegations, with the inherent deep offshore drilling safety risks and we have serious grounds for concern. These are companies that have announced plans to start deep sea drilling off the Algarve coast this summer. If an accident were to occur at this drill location, the effects would directly hit the entire region of Costa Vicentina. Once the spill begins, there simply is no way to contain it. The damage to our marine environment, coastlines, economy and reputation would be catastrophic.
There is much uncertainty concerning environmental risks of deep water oil and gas extraction and how to mitigate those risks. What is certain however is that the Algarve ocean environment contains immense value in supporting diverse ecosystems, sustainable fisheries, and priceless intrinsic value. The ocean is without doubt a central part of our identity and well-being. Committing to deep sea oil and gas drilling is indeed putting all of this at stake.
In our opinion, deep-sea oil and gas drilling in the Algarve waters is simply not worth the risk.
Some articles you may want to check out about ENI and Saipem: