Troubled ILVA steel plant to be run by commissioner

Enrico Bondi to revamp, clean up Taranto works in three years

Troubled ILVA steel plant to be run by commissioner

(By Denis Greenan). Rome, June 4 - The Italian government on Tuesday named a special commissioner to clean up and revamp the troubled ILVA steelworks in the southern Italian port city of Taranto. Corporate troubleshooter Enrico Bondi, 78, recently took over management at the controversial works in Puglia, accused of raising local cancer rates. As commissioner, he will have sweeping powers for three years. Bondi will be able to appoint two sub-commissioners to help him get the job done, according to a decree issued Tuesday. Bondi, 78, made his name by restructuring chemicals giant Montedison after a big scandal in the 1990s before reviving dairy group Parmalat after Europe's largest-ever fraudulent bankruptcy in 2003. Before being appointed ILVA CEO in mid-April, he was the spending-cuts czar in the previous government led by technocrat Mario Monti. The environment ministry will name five experts to advise on safeguarding workers and people living near the plant, which has been linked to higher local cancer rates. The experts are also charged with proposing ways to lower accident risk. The panel will make their recommendations within 60 days of their appointment. Industry Minister Flavio Zanonato said the long-awaited decree would salvage the Taranto plant, save thousands of jobs and 40% of the country's steel production. The new ruling marks a partial victory for the government in a row with a local court over whether the plant - accused of damaging health and the environment with its toxic emissions - can continue to run as it undertakes major clean-up measures the government agreed would permit it to continue operating. A Taranto judge recently challenged the constitutionality of the so-called 'Save ILVA' decree, passed in December, which the Monti government amended specifically to overrule a court-ordered partial shutdown. The judge's constitutional challenges were found to be in part inadmissible and in part unfounded. ILVA has been at the centre of a political and legal battle since July when local magistrates ordered its partial closure due to the health concerns. Saving ILVA, a plant that produces almost all of the country's steel for the automotive, shipping and domestic appliance industries, as well as provides jobs for around 20,000 workers, has become a priority for Premier Enrico Letta's government. The company is also plagued by probes into the Riva family, whose holding controls the plant, for suspected fraud against the State and fake money transfers. Last week government officials tried to reassure tens of thousands of workers at the troubled company that ILVA workers would be taken care of after police seized 9.3 billion euros' worth of assets belonging to the steel group's owners and ILVA's board of directors resigned en masse, including the company's chairman and CEO Bondi. The Riva group is the biggest iron and steel producer in Italy, the fourth-biggest in Europe and the 23rd-biggest in the world. The Taranto plant is the biggest in Europe. Also on Tuesday, the government-run Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) said tumours in Taranto were 11% above the Puglia average between 1997 and 2011, with lung cancer cases 20% up. ISPRA Director-General Stefano Laporta told the Senate industry committee a link between ILVA and the higher rates "still has to be established, but that's the cold data".

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