ILVA decree makes way through environmental commission

Health minister says important to weigh risks of job losses

ILVA decree makes way through environmental commission

Rome, December 13 - The government's efforts to keep the embattled ILVA steel plant in the southern city of Taranto operational received a boost Thursday when a parliamentary commission approved the government's ''Save Taranto'' decree with only a few amendments. Commenting the need to make sure that work continues at the plant - which is at the center of a health and environmental disaster battle between Taranto prosecutors and the national government in Rome - Health Minister Renato Balduzzi said that while peoples' health is of greatest importance, the environment and work must also be considered. ''In their hierarchy, health is at the top, but it can't be used to exclude the other elements, because if 20,000 people lose their jobs there will be an impact on health,'' Balduzzi said, referring to the risks associated with a closing of the ILVA plant. ''The challenge is to succeed in lowering emissions and have a permanent monitoring instrument,'' Balduzzi said, referring to data which show that some health parameters, such as the incidence of tumors in the local population, are significantly higher than the regional average. In terms of the ''Save Taranto'' decree, the government had already issued some amendments to the decree on Wednesday that, aside from allowing the plant to continue operations, allows for the sale of products made before the date of entry of the decree itself. The seizure of some finished product shipments risked putting other company plants in Italy and abroad in productive difficulties, company managers told unions Thursday. ''The company has confirmed that, following the seizing of finished products, there will soon be repercussions on other Italian and foreign plants,'' a Uilm union official said, citing company communications. The company's plants in Genova and Novi Ligure are expected to stop production in ''three-four days,'' the official told ANSA. Meanwhile, a Fim-Cisl union official in Taranto said Thursday that work had begun to restore one of the contested ovens at ILVA's Taranto plant and that the 100 or so people who worked there have been temporarily reassigned to other duties pending the end of the restoration. Earlier Thursday the European Parliament asked the Italian government to ''guarantee with extreme urgency the environmental recovery of the site'' of ILVA in Taranto. In a resolution adopted Thursday, the Parliament also asked that ''the costs related to prevention and corrective measures adopted [at the site] be paid for following the principal of 'polluter pays', as established by Art. 8 of EU directive 35 of 2004.''

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