Rome

Government, ILVA vow to fight steelworks shutdown order

'Euthanasia is not a cure' says environment minister

Government, ILVA vow to fight steelworks shutdown order

(ANSA) - Rome, August 13 - The Italian government said Monday it will go all the way to the Constitutional Court to challenge the latest judicial order that would block production at the troubled ILVA steel plant in Taranto. Environment Minister Corrado Clini said, "euthanasia is not a cure (for the plant)," which is accused of polluting the environment for more than a dozen years. ILVA's chairman Bruno Ferrante also vowed Monday to fight judicial orders that would lead to its closure. Justice Minister Paola Severino said that her office is challenging new court measures that would block work at the steelworks and remove Ferrante as plant administrator. At the weekend, a preliminary hearings judge issued a new order countering rulings last week that would have kept the plant, Europe's largest, operating while it is upgraded to meet safety standards. In a statement Severino said she hoped that "a solution to the need to balance environmental needs with those of employment and public health factors can and should be found. "This is the path that the government intends to undertake," she said. Later, on his Twitter feed, Clini urged all parties to work together to keep the plant alive. "(Everyone) must be very well clear on competencies and areas of responsibility," he wrote. "Everyone must do his job." Ferrante, who met with a court-appointed group of legal plant guardians on Monday, said the weekend decision threatened the jobs of almost 12,000 people working at Italy's largest steel plant and many others in the supply chain. He has previously said that ILVA will be forced to close two other plants in northern Italy if the Taranto factory is shut down. The case has bounced between courts as prosecutors, local citizens, and the Green political party have fought to close the plant while the government and unions work to keep it open as it undergoes a 336-million euro cleanup. "(Premier Mario) Monti's government, like the (previous) Berlusconi government, wants to muzzle the magistrates in Taranto, who are doing their duty (fighting) serious crime and pollution that cause illness and death," said Angelo Bonelli, president of the Green Party, who has threatened to take the case to the European Court of Justice. "We ask Monti: how many lives are worth a ton of steel?" In July a court had ordered the company to halt parts of its operations, but last week another court partially reversed that order and named Ferrante as the administrator to oversee the impounded portions of the plant during the cleanup. Prosecutors say the plant has endangered workers and nearby residents with fumes and dust particles since 1995. All this had further heightened the controversy over the future of the ILVA plant, pitting community members against union workers fighting for their jobs in this southern city which has been hit hard by the recession. Both sides have been holding protest marches and other actions, including a two-hour strike planned for Monday by unions at the plant. Monti's government intends to fight the judicial order closing the plant on the grounds that it has the authority to set industrial policy in Italy, according to Antonio Catricala, secretary to the premier. "We will ask the Constitutional Court to see if it (the ruling) has not crippled our power to set industrial policy," Catricala told RAI radio. Last year, the ILVA plant produced 8.5 million tons of steel, nearly 30% of Italy's total steel production.

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