14 January 2020
Coal plant management faces reckoning in Italian court over deadly pollution
ITALY, 14 January 2020 – Italian civil society groups will testify in court today against the management of Tirreno Power’s Vado Ligure coal plant, who is on trial for illegally operating heavily-polluting units between 2000 and 2014, resulting in serious health and environmental impacts in nearby areas.
According to public prosecutors bringing the case before the Savona Court, emissions from the coal plant caused the premature deaths of 427 people between 2000 and 2007 alone, due to cardiovascular and breathing diseases, as well as the hospitalisation of 2,223 adults as well as 433 children between 2005 and 2010 (1).
Coal units at the plant were seized through an unprecedented court order in 2014, as pollution posed an imminent threat to the health of people living around it. The management is accused of negligence, imprudence and inexperience, causing an environmental and health disaster. A citizens’ local committee, Uniti per la Salute, will testify in court today on the complaint they filed to the Savona public prosecutor’s office in 2009, which triggered the initial investigation.
“The conviction of coal plant management could set a groundbreaking precedent in Italian and European law, establishing not only an unequivocal link between pollution from coal burning and human health, but finally holding the utilities and their managers responsible for running such polluting plants,” said Antonio Tricarico, Programs Director at Re:Common. “Justice for the victims of coal here, will usher in justice for coal’s damage across Europe, and help speed the transition to a clean energy future.”
“The Europe Beyond Coal campaign stands in solidarity with Italian civil society on this case. We hope that justice will prevail and that all power utilities will finally get the message that there are real consequences for not cleaning up their polluting and climate-damaging practices,” said Mahi Sideridou, Europe Beyond Coal managing director.
- Decision to open the trial, Justice Francesco Meloni, Savona Court, 12 April 2018 – #5917/13 RGNR, #537/14 RG GIP
- In 2016, Tirreno Power – partially owned by Engie group – decided to close the plant’s coal units, and start a slow decommissioning process. In December 2018, a trial began in Savona Court against 26 defendants, including directors and managers of Tirreno Power.
- Nine civil society organisations, including the local citizens’ committee “Uniti per la Salute”, WWF Italy, Greenpeace Italy, Legambiente, Medicina Democratica, as well as Italy’s environmental and health ministries have been recognised by the court as civil parties to the case, and entitled to support the public prosecutor’s actions, as well as request damages in the case of conviction. Furthermore, 48 individuals have been granted admittance to the case as prospective victims, claiming that years of living near the plant has left them suffering psychological damage as well as exposure to pollutants that put them at risk of developing diseases in the future.
Alastair Clewer, communications officer, Europe Beyond Coal
[email protected], +49 176 433 07 185 (English)
Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups working to catalyse the closures of coal mines and power plants, prevent the building of any new coal projects and hasten the just transition to clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our groups are devoting their time, energy and resources to this independent campaign to make Europe coal free by 2030 or sooner. www.beyond-coal.eu