EU mulls legal move against Italy over Ilva steel plant emissions

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 20, 2013 12:56 PM

BRUSSELS/ROME (Reuters) - The European Commission may open a legal procedure against Italy for failing to control toxic emissions at the Ilva steel plant, currently at the center of a high-profile environmental probe, a Commission source aware of the dossier told Reuters on Friday.

The source said an infringement procedure against Italy had been included in the list of EU proceedings to be published next Thursday.

However, a source at Italy's environment ministry and another Commission source said Rome and Brussels were still negotiating, with Italy trying to prevent the move.

Ilva, which runs Europe's biggest steel plant in the southern Italian city of Taranto, has embarked on a two-year cleanup operation after prosecutors alleged that toxic emissions had caused abnormally high levels of cancer and respiratory illness in the region.

According to prosecution documents, decades of emissions of dioxins, benzoapyrene and other cancer-causing chemicals caused an "environmental disaster", damaging the health of Taranto residents and affecting farming and fishing for miles around.

Ilva has repeatedly said the plant complied with environmental standards and denied its operations were responsible for any health problems.

In June the Italian government appointed a special commissioner to run the troubled plant, which accounts for 40 percent of the country's overall steel output, and oversee cleanup operations.

(Reporting by Massimiliano Di Giorgio and Francesco Guarascio, writing by Agnieszka Flak; editing by David Evans)