In a statement issued on Tuesday, the non-governmental association said, “ZERO has today sent a complaint to the European Commission regarding non-compliance with the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) legislation in the decision-making process for the construction of an airport at Montijo Air Base No. 6”.
According to the note, the association has, “since the beginning of last year”, been warning the competent authorities about the need to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment instead of an Environmental Impact Assessment, which it considers “much more limited”.
In ZERO’s opinion, the location of the new airport should be evaluated bearing in mind “other alternatives”, to justify the “continuation or otherwise of other viable possibilities”, as well as being pegged against all other “prospective scenarios”.
The association argues, therefore, that the Environmental Impact Assessment does not address these aspects.
“Only a Strategic Environmental Assessment can carry out the exhaustive and rigorous evaluation that a project with an impact over the next 40 years imposes”, it explained.
ZERO also said that “no answer has been given” by the government, and criticised the fact that the Minister of Planning and Infrastructures, Pedro Marques, has said he expects work to begin on the new airport next year.
“This fact appears to be a fait accompli, where the decision is already made, even without the studies being completed, which makes this very non-transparent process a clear and blatant subversion of the underlying principle that the Environmental Assessment procedures are a tool to support a decision”, ZERO slammed.
The association further indicated that the typology of this project has characteristics that require a Strategic Environmental Assessment, in accordance with national and European legislation.
One of them is the size of the airport, which makes the project classified as a “large public enterprise with a territorial impact” and, according to Portuguese law, “is covered by an SEA”, explained ZERO.
Another reason is the location of the airport in the Special Protection Zone of the Tagus Estuary.
“Given the unavoidable effects on birds of an infrastructure such as an airport adjacent to a special protection zone, national and European legislation makes clear the need for an SEA”, the statement noted.
In addition, according to ZERO, all plans and programs that are classified as “likely to have significant effects on the environment” are also subject to this type of assessment.
With the formal complaint lodged at the start of this week, the association expects the Government to “reconsider, suspend the Environmental Impact Assessment and initiate a Strategic Environmental Assessment procedure that will truly serve to underpin a decision”.
ZERO further stressed that it “does not rule out the possibility of appealing to the national courts” and that it is already “studying a prosecution”.
Plans for Montijo’s air base to undergo a €33 million conversion into a civilian airport and absorb overflow from Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado international airport have gained consistency in recent years.
Earlier this year, it was announced the airbase could be converted, and up and running for commercial use as early as 2022.