Opinion by Laurinda Seabra
Galp/ENI Aljezur Drilling: Setting the Record Straight
A lot of ink has run in the mainstream press and other social media platforms about the alleged victory of PALP in the Loulé Administrative and Fiscal court on 13 August 2018.
And although we were pleasantly surprised by the decision of the court, and welcomed the decision, we warned that the drilling had not been stopped but was only temporary embargoed. The drilling risk has not gone away at all.
Like many others, we at ASMAA were under the impression that PALP had indeed submitted their legal action to court following a similar process to the one followed when they submitted their petition to the Portuguese parliament. In the petition phase, it was indeed PALP represented by some of its members that lodged the petition.
But regarding the court actions, we could not have been more wrong in our assumption. The court action that all speak of as being a PALP legal action is not a true representation of the facts.
Instead the truth is that it’s a joint legal action lodged in court by ONLY 3 associations (Quercus, Sciaena and Almargen), without any reference in the court documents to the informal network that is PALP, or to any other of the 14 members of this informal network. So, who were they in fact representing?
We were indeed very surprised by this omission from the legal documents and process. In support of our statement above I refer you to the court documents released by PALP on their Facebook page on August 21. (See attachment section below)
Now the question left in our minds is why did this omission happened?
Was it intentional or just an oversight?
Why were the other PALP associations, organisations and informal community bodies and their members not included or referred to in the court documents as being represented?
We have to be forgiven, if it once again raised other questions in our minds regarding potential conflicts of interest between some of PALP’s (informally structured) network members and the industry they are purportedly fighting. After all, it appears that some of PALP’s members have developed very close relationships with the industry lobbies and their representatives over many years.
One thing the court documents released by PALP substantiates once and for all is our claims last year that the “Suspensive” aspect of their injunction haven't been in force from June 2017 to August 2018.
We challenged PALP on numerous occasions about the damage and confusion that their “suspensive” injunction claims was causing in the minds of the people. And we were totally right in doing it, because we hold the best interest of Portugal, its people and nature in our hearts and minds.
Unfortunately, released court documents (In Portuguese and in attachment section below) prove without a doubt that ASMAA was totally correct at the time. We really wish we had been wrong, and we would be ready to apologise had it been so. But the facts speak for themselves.
Reinstatement of Suspensive Effect
Regarding the Injunction suspensive reinstatement, to say that we were surprised, it’s an understatement. Why were we surprised?
- The arguments put forward by government were only contested nearly one year later, although there was opportunity to do it earlier. Why didn’t the 3 associations instruct their legal team to do so? And why did PALP spokespersons keep on insisting that the suspensive aspect was in force when it is now clear that it was not?
The result is that this enabled ENI to meet many legal requirements that were outstanding during this period of time. Here’s just one example: in September 2017, ENI conducted some surveys in the drilling zone using the research/support vessel “Vos Purpose”. Had the suspensive aspect of the injunction been in place, this action by ENI would not have been legally possible.
- We still curious about what “negotiations” transpired that enabled “PALP” to lay claim to a three-month extension to the “alleged” suspensive rule (which we now know was not active at the time)?
We are not at all surprised by the appeals on August 14 by government, as well as by ENI/Galp a few days later. In fact we warned it was too early to celebrate. We where in fact expecting such a reaction from them.
And finally, we would not be surprised that in spite of the appeals brought forward in the appeal court by government and the companies, if the government goes ahead and just cancels the current ENI’s TUPEM licence. Giving ENI/Galp the opportunity for a new TUPEM application in the future.
If they (Government) does indeed cancel the current ENI TUPEM licence, the court injunction being appealed against falls, as the ground for this legal challenge by the three associations (Quercus, Sciaena and Almargen) will no longer be valid.
Is that on the cards?
We will all have to wait and see … in the meanwhile, I’ll grab the popcorn, while watching the next moves in this complex and multiple games at play concurrently!
It will be interesting to watch what the government / ENI / Galp next move will be.
In the background
While all of this is happening in the foreground, concurrently and running quietly in the background in the Loulé Administrative and Fiscal High Court, are ASMAA’s Class action representing 42,000 people, challenging the DL 109/94 lodged on 6 April this year, and the decision by ENMC and APA’s public consultation report challenged by us on 14 August 2018 (the same day government appealed the court decision).