Lombardy aims to slash air pollution with new plan

Maroni also launches mission to Brussels to plead special status

Lombardy aims to slash air pollution with new plan

Milan, September 6 - The Lombardy regional government passed a comprehensive plan to battle air pollution from now through 2020, Governor Roberto Maroni announced at a press conference in Milan on Friday. Lombardy is one of Europe's most severely polluted regions, and frequently violates European air quality standards. Lombardy's smog woes are due to dirty combustion from cars, trucks, heating, industry and other sources, which settle and concentrate - especially in the winter months - in the geographic basin in which the region sits. The new "Pria" plan aims to reduce fined dust particles (PM10) by 41%, nitrogen oxide (NO2) by 49%, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 20%, and ammonia (NH3) by 16% - all by 2020. Governor Maroni, who is also chief of the Northern League party, said the "timely, courageous, organic measures" would achieve its ambitious goals through a two billion euro investment over eight years and the implementation of a series of new restrictions by 2016. The new restrictions include expanding a ban on dirty euro 0 gas engine vehicles and euro 3 diesel engines from 209 municipalities to 570. At the same time the "Pria" smog plan, as it is called, foresees waiving annual vehicle registration fees for drivers who switch from polluting class vehicles to "clean" ones, perhaps as early as 2014, funds permitting. Tackling the burning of wood will also be a major target of plan. "For the first time we are adopting a strategic, structural plan," declared Environment Councillor Claudia Terzi. Maroni added that Italian Environment Minister Andrea Orlando was working to coordinate air pollution policies among northern Italian regions which lie on the Po plain. Terzi said an agreement was expected by the end of the month. Maroni also reiterated a plea initiated years ago by his centre-right predecessor ex-governor Roberto Maroni that the European Union "recognize the specific nature of the Padan basin" so that Lombardy receives special status for concessions on European air quality standards. Maroni announced Lombardy representatives are headed to Brussels with the environmental minister to plead the cause within two weeks.

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