Italy facing EC penalties over ILVA
Steel plant in southern Italy deemed health, environment threat26 September, 14:10
"The Italian authorities had plenty of time to ensure that the environmental provisions for ILVA in Taranto were met," Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik told ANSA. "What has (happened with) ILVA is a clear example of the failure to adopt appropriate measures to protect human health and the environment".
By sending a formal notice, the EC has taken the first step in its infraction procedures process against Italy for failing to ensure that ILVA's Taranto plant meets EU requirements concerning industrial emissions creating "serious consequences for human health and the environment". Italy has been given two months to respond to the Commission, which said in a statement that it was acting on several complaints from citizens and NGOs in the Taranto area.
The long-running battle involves Europe's largest steel plant, which is located in the southern port city of Taranto and for years has been condemned by environmental and health activists who claim the plant has caused dangerous levels of pollution.
Prosecutors moved in July 2012 to shut down the plant, which employs about 12,000 people directly in a region with high levels of unemployment.
Government, unions, and the company that owns the plant pushed back, seeking ways to keep the plant operating while making expensive but essential environmental upgrades.
The previous Italian government even launched a "Save ILVA" campaign late last year with measures designed to keep the company operating and workers employed during the upgrades.
Complicating matters still more, the Riva group, which owns this and other smaller plants in Italy, has recently been hit serious legal and financial troubles.
Several weeks ago, prosecutors asked the courts to indict Emilio Riva, the Riva group's chairman, on charges of massive tax fraud.
Milan prosecutor Francesco Greco accused Riva, and two other former executives of the steelmaker, of evading 52 million euros in taxes dating back to 2007.
The EC says that Italy has a responsibility to meet its European obligations on health and environment and, according to its statement, Italy is "failing to ensure that so far ILVA Taranto meet the requirements of the EU concerning industrial emissions".
According to the EC, "most of the problems stem from a failure to reduce the high level of uncontrolled emissions generated during the steel production process," it said in its statement.
"Tests have shown heavy pollution of the air, soil, surface and ground waters both at the ILVA site and in nearby inhabited areas of the city of Taranto. The contamination of the Tamburi quarter in the city of Taranto in particular can be attributed to the operation of the steel plant".
Potocnik told ANSA that he hopes a solution can be found working with the Italian government.
"We look forward to discussing with Italy on how the problems can Ilva Taranto be solved," said Potocnik.
"We look forward to, as soon as possible, effective solutions to environmental problems".