The energy crisis and how to help businesses and families cope with rising utility bills has taken centre stage during Italy’s election campaign. Having a new regasification vessel operational in the Tuscan port of Piombino by March 2023, was part of the current Prime Mnister Mario Draghi’s strategy to expand the country's LNG capacity, and reduce its dependency on Russia.
Piombino is a small port town, and residents there have already endured the environmental impact of years of steel production activities. This new proposal, which involves a new floating terminal for liquefied gas, is facing intense opposition from the local community. More than half of the local residents are against it, and this includes the Mayor, Francesco Ferrari.
"“We believe that the location of the floating terminal inside such a small harbour is absolutely wrong. It’s a negative thing from an economic point of view, especially for a city that is trying to re-launch itself. It’s a choice that would bring a lack of stability and that would also impact the environment around here."
Up to 3000 local residents took to the streets to protest against the plan. Among them were Ugo and Maria Cristina Biagini, who have been campaigning for months. Under a new law the project is seen by the government as part of an emergency plan, and their fear is that risk assessments for the area won’t be taken into consideration. Maria says what has happened in a nearby town should be a warning for Piombino.
“In the nearby town of Livorno, here in Tuscany, there is a similar floating terminal and a 3 km area has been cordoned off around it. It’s forbidden to stay within it. If you applied the same no-go area over here, that would be an area corresponding to the whole town."
The local fishing community is feeling the strain of the proposed new plan too. They say they are not fully aware of what kind of impact it will have on the wildlife there. Davide Scotto, is a local fisherman.
“Our fear is that one day we might end up being discriminated against and blamed for the fact that our fish are not the same anymore, due to the proximity of the regasification vessel. This is the most worrying issue for us working in this sector."
The final decision on whether or not the project will go ahead will be taken in Florence. Mario Draghi appointed the Governor of the Tuscany Region, Eugenio Giani, as the new Terminal's special commissioner. Ultmately, he is the one who is going to authorize construction works and infrastructures connected to the site, and he says he has mixed feelings about the project.
“On the one hand if the overall level of energy self-sufficiency doesn’t allow us to feel safe then we are undermining national security ...businesses would be forced to stop working and our society would be affected ...on the other hand this is an opportunity for Piombino. For a period of three years the city can benefit from State aid to fix environmental issues caused by steel production related activites."
The outcome of the upcoming elections may also play a part in the future of what will happen in Piombino.