Italian govt passes decree to save troubled ILVA steel plant

Site risks closure over allegedly hazardous emissions

Italian govt passes decree to save troubled ILVA steel plant

Rome, November 30 - The Italian government Friday approved a decree that aims to make it possible to keep the troubled ILVA steel plant in Taranto operating while a clean-up operation takes place. The decree was passed by the cabinet after the company said earlier this week that the plant risked "imminent" closure due to a criminal probe into an environmental scandal that saw several top managers arrested. The Taranto plant's furnaces were placed under special administration in July following accusations emissions from them caused abnormally high levels of tumours and respiratory diseases in the Taranto area. Premier Mario Monti said Friday the decree would protect local people's health as well as the jobs of some 20,000 workers. "Some people have called this the save ILVA decree," Monti said. "I'd say it's a save the environment, health and jobs decree". Before Friday's cabinet meeting Monti had said closing the plant, and another large one in Genoa which depends on its, would take eight billion euros out of the Italian economy. The decree aims to end a tussle between central government and local magistrates over whether the plant should be shut down while the site is cleared up. A shutdown for a clean-up would have led to the plant's permanent closure, the company had warned. On Tuesday Environment Minister Corrado Clini accused Taranto prosecutors of trying "get the plant closed down". Before Friday's cabinet meeting, a Taranto judge rejected a petition to take parts of the site out of special administration. According to the decree, a government appointed official will monitor whether ILVA respects the terms of an environmental authorization (AIA) plan. The company could face fines of 10% of the plant's annual turnover if it fails to do so and Industry Minister Corrado Passera said it could eventually lose control of the site completely. Bad weather added to the plant's woes this week when a crane operator was killed after being swept out to sea by a tornado Wednesday. The tornado also hurt about 20 people and caused several structures inside the site to collapse. The plant at the Puglia port is the second biggest steelworks in Europe.

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