So let’s look at the information that is doing the rounds currently.
1. PALP‘s injunction suspensive effect is back into play, according to an award given by the Loulé’s High Court (Loulé’s TAF).
2. There’s an embargo by the government that has to all effects prevented any drilling from going ahead until 15 September.
One is a legal procedure; the other is a political decision. But the bottom line is what is the final deadline for the lifting of any of the embargos?
Well, on the political embargo, its quite clear. After the 15 September this year, ENI is free to drill. Now, on the PALP’s suspensive effect of their injunction, things are not that clear cut.
Why? Well, let’s look at what does the court document really state?
The court has reinstated the suspensive aspect of PALP’s injunction, which is valid UNTIL THERE’s a court decision on their main case. One now needs to take into account that the final court hearing will take place on 1 August this year in Loulé’s High Court. Meaning that the presiding judge may give an award before the deadline of 15 September set by government.
If that happens and the award is in favour of the defendants (government / ENI / Galp) and is given before the 15 September, the risk is high that the Saipem 12000 will leave the Canary Islands for the Alentejo Basin drilling site. If PALP wins the case, then the TUPEM licence falls away, preventing ENI from drilling.
We have to work using a worst case scenario, and not be fooled by claims that PALP’s injunction will suspend the drilling past the 15 September deadline as it has been alluded by many media outlets, both main stream as well as alternative media.
We have to be ready to face reality, and accept that the risk is real, that the risk is just around the corner, and that on the basis of legal merit of both the plaintiff and the defendants arguments, it may just happen. ENI may just win their right to drill.
But, whatever the outcome of the decision made by the presiding judge, we can’t blame her, as her responsibility is only to evaluate if the law has been or not been complied with. In addition, we have to be cognisant that she’s not an expert on the oil exploration industry, nor does she have to be. Her decision will be based solely on legal grounds, nothing else. And we can’t expect more than that.
Which brings us to what are we at ASMAA doing, or planning on doing if the award goes in favour of the drilling?
So far, our main legal challenge is proceeding through the normal court process. With exception of one party, which has once again requested a postponement, all other summonsed parties have submitted their written arguments.
Unlike PALP and others, we are not challenging the TUPEM licence per se, but are challenging instead the validity of the underpinning law that gave grounds for the award of the concession contracts to the concessionaries. And this legal process will continue on its normal course. But should the risk of the drilling materialise, then ASMAA will lodge an injunction to attempt to put a stop to the drilling.
Will we succeed? Like with any legal process we can’t guarantee that it will neither can we guarantee that it will not! But we will do all in our power to submit strong legal arguments backed by supportive evidence to achieve our objectives, which is to prevent ENI from drilling this year.
This is all that we can honestly tell you at this time. It’s a chess game … and the game is still on full course!