This decision, according to PALP themselves and present in various online publications, was made in a private meeting held behind closed doors at the Loulé Administrative Court last Friday, with representatives of both the government and ENI.
But does this decision not effectively increase GALP-ENI TUPEM licence to drill to April 2019? And is in fact contrary to some opinions, or as alleged by PALP in their Press Release of 23 February, is it really a "suspension" of the drilling for three months?
You can’t really suspend an action that was already conditioned by the government when it imposed a set of specific conditions to the new one-year extension to January 2019, issued by the Secretary of State for Energy, Jorge Seguro Sanches, on 8 January2018.
One of the specific conditions to the one year extension was that ENI had to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and that until such time as this study was approved, the drilling effectively was embargoed.
But this EIA condition was clarified further about three weeks ago, when the Economy Minister confirmed that the need for an EIA, and the type of EIA, was left at the discretion of the Environment Minister whose department (the Portuguese Environmental Agency) will analyse each request on a case-by-case basis. (sic)
This means that UNTIL SUCH TIME as the Portuguese Environmental Agency publishes its decision, the drilling by the GALP-ENI consortium is embargoed. That is it.
PALP’S SMOKE AND MIRRORS COURT CASE
We need to go back to PALP’s injunction against the Ministry of the Sea which, as far as we are aware, was based solely on the cancellation of the TUPEM licence due to the lack of an EIA.
According to our understanding, that was the basis of PALP’s case, nothing else. There was no demand for the cancellation of contracts, nor was there any demand for the cancellation of the underpinning law, although in various press releases, PALP insinuates that there was.
But let’s look at recent history, the impact of the announcement on 8 January and the subsequent announcement regarding the absolute authority of the Portuguese Environmental Agency to assess each EIA requirement on a case-by-case basis.
If we are correct, then this meant that PALP’s court injunction effectively was dead in the water and would, in all probability, have been thrown out of court once the court proceedings started.
Not a nice position to be in. We agree!
But it was not devastating and most of us in civic society that are seriously taking part in this fight would have looked at it as just another setback, nothing more.
What it appears to be the outcome, is that GALP-ENI gained a three month extension to its TUPEM licence. Now, that is unacceptable news for all of us that are involved in this fight.
In one fell swoop, unlike PALP’s statement that it gained three months in the fight, the reality is that it has been GALP-ENI that has gained the extra time.
because if it is like PALP stated, that they gained a three month halt to their legal process, that action in itself, means that effectively Galp/ENI gained an additional three months extension to their extended TUPEM licence.
because we have all been informed by ENI that there are technical restrictions that demands that drilling takes place in the first 6-months of the year.
because the administrative process for a simplified EIA for exploration purposes could be concluded in 3-months.
because, unfortunately, all indications are that the EIA will be approved by APA once submitted by ENI (this will be a rubber stamp exercise - we just need to look at how the government has dealt with this issue since day one, to know that they are not on the side of the people, the environment or the local economy, but instead are on the side of the corporations)
all of the above means:
That in one simple legal move, GALP-ENI not only got rid of PALP’s legal action, it now has until April 2019 to start drilling, which it can do the moment its EIA is approved.
This means that the consortium now can drill without needing to go through the entire process of applying for a new TUPEM licence to enable them to drill during the timeframe of favourable technical conditions in 2019.
The anti-oil drilling campaigners did not win, PALP did not win, we all lost through the very clever legal outmanoeuvring of PALP by GALP-ENI’s legal and executive team with the cumplicity of our government.
Is this the end?
Not at all. We at ASMAA are still here and ready to have our day in court. We see this only as losing a small battle in the larger war.
A luta continua!
Opinion article by Laurinda Seabra (26 February 2018)