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Environment: European Commission urges Italy to bring a
steel plant in Taranto up to environmental standards
The European Commission is taking action against Italy in an
effort to reduce the environmental impact of the ILVA steel plant in Taranto
(hereafter "ILVA")Europe's largest iron and steel works.
Following a number of complaints from citizens and NGOs, the
Commission has found that Italy is failing to ensure that ILVA complies with EU
requirements on industrial emissions, with serious consequences for human health
and the environment.
It is also failing to respect the Environmental Liability
Directive, which enacts the "polluter pays" principle.
On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez
European Commission is therefore sending a Letter of Formal Notice, giving Italy
two months to reply.
Most of the problems stem from a failure to reduce the high
level of uncontrolled emissions generated during the steel production process.
Under the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC)
Directive, industrial activities with a high pollution potential must be
Tests have shown heavy pollution of the air, soil, surface and
ground waters both at the ILVA site and in nearby inhabited areas of the city of
The contamination of the Tamburi quarter in the city of
Taranto in particular can be attributed to the operation of the steel plant.
In addition to these breaches of the IPPC Directive and the
resulting pollution, it appears that the Italian authorities have not ensured
that the operator of the ILVA Taranto plant takes the necessary remedial
measures or bears the costs of such measures to deal with the damage that has
already been produced.
While the Commission sees recent commitments made by the
Italian authorities to address the situation as a positive sign, it is
nevertheless asking Italy to respect its obligations under the IPPC Directive
and the Environmental Liability Directive.
The Commission is ready to help the Italian authorities in
their efforts to resolve these serious issues.
The European Court of Justice condemned Italy on 30 March 2011
for not issuing industrial emissions permits to several industrial
installations, including ILVA (Case C-50/10).
On 4 August 2011 the Italian authorities then issued an IPPC
permit for ILVA, which was further updated on 26 October 2012.
The IPPC Directive (Directive 96/61/EC, replaced by Directive
2008/1/EC) provides an EU-wide standard for licensing industrial and
agricultural activities with a high pollution potential.
Permits can only be issued if certain environmental conditions
are met, so that the companies themselves bear responsibility for preventing and
reducing any pollution they may cause.
Permitting ensures that the most appropriate
pollution-prevention measures are used, and that waste is recycled or disposed
of in the least polluting way possible.
The Environmental Liability Directive sets up a framework
based on the "polluter pays" principle to prevent and remedy environmental
Operators carrying out dangerous activities listed in Annex
III of the Directive, including iron and steel production, fall under "strict
liability", with no requirement to prove fault, provided a causal link between
the activity and the damage is established.
Affected natural or legal persons and environmental NGOs have
the right to request the competent authority to take remedial action if they
deem it necessary.