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. (Not that we are under the illusion that APA will not operate like all other government bodies when they rejected 42,000 objections)
In spite of what we expect to happen, 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 ENI's 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.
We strongly advise that you make your comment public, either through ASMAA or in any other online platforms, such as Facebook for example. Be vocal, and share it. We will endeavour to have the guidelines translated into Portuguese as soon as possible.
HOW TO COMMENT: BRIEF GUIDELINES
The operator is ENI, acting on behalf of the ENI/Galp consortium. In order to comply with the contractual obligations for the concessions areas of Santola, Gamba and Lavagante, they need to drill one well in the deep offshore of Alentejo Bay until January 2019. The only thing standing in the way of ENI carrying their contractual obligations, is a decision by the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA) on whether an Environmental Impact Assessment is required or not.
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 from interested individuals and organisations. This will enable APA to substantiate their final decision.
ENI has provided a set of documents for review that you can download from the site participa.pt (click here), and the public has until April 16th to provide comments. To participate, you need to first register on this website.
The documentation pack supplied by ENI, has 318 pages in total, and covers many of the impacts the project may have. 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 the appropriate documentation in a structured manner, and which hopefully will assist you.
1. Start by reading and understanding the hierarchy of the EIS.
- The ENI document that we suggest you focus on, is the one titled [“Elementos para apreciação prévia e decisão de sujeição a Avaliação de Impacte Ambiental” Doc. Nº: rep. Ms. Hse. 011 with 229 pages.]
- It’s the last document in the set of documents that you will find in the “participa.pt” website.
- Start by finding the Index section (pages 2 and 3). 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 ENI 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 - 12 hours of non-stop reading to completely read the whole document.
- The document itself 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 starting on page 4 and ending on page 8 of the recommended document.
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 EIS 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 EIS, 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 EIS underestimated the effects of … on local communities."
- Focus on cause and effect. If you allege that the EIS does or does not do something, clearly connect the dots. For example, "The 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 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 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 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 coalitions), 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 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.