Italy

Italy

Emissions reduction takes precedence -- Court rules in favour of project

Reducing the emission of greenhouse gases to meet the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol is in the public interest and takes priority over generic interests in protecting the landscape. So says Italy's Consiglio di Stato, the country's highest administrative court, in a recent ruling that may finally clear the way for the construction of a wind station in Molise by the renewables arm of Italian utility Enel. The ruling could also have larger implications for the wind industry.

The local superintendence of Italy's ministry for culture, which has a voice in the protection of the countryside, blocked the Enel project in question in 2002, citing the negative impact construction of the wind farm would have on an area of interest for its naturalistic qualities and virtually untouched landscape. Objections by the superintendence came even though the region of Molise had given a substantial go-ahead to the project, on the condition that the construction took into account the undeniable qualities of the surroundings.

The Molise administrative court, however, ruled in favour of the ministry last year. But the Consiglio di Stato reversed that ruling and said the superintendence had not provided an adequate motivation for the block. The superintendence cannot simply override the region's authorisation unless it finds fault with some specific element of the region's decision or identifies specific factors not examined by the local government, the court said. The court noted there was no ban on building in the area concerned.

Moreover, the Enel project was in the public interest of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases "through the research, promotion development and greater use of technologies that are advanced and compatible with the environment, among which are wind plants." Italy has made an international commitment to reducing these emissions, the court noted, by signing on to the Kyoto Protocol.

Precedent

"It's an important sentence establishing the principle that the superintendence can't reject a wind energy plant for superficial reasons but must give a valid motivation," says Edoardo Zanchini of Italian environmental association Legambiente. "The Kyoto Protocol is used to reinforce the court's argument."

Zanchini adds, however, that the ruling "doesn't mean that there will be a revolution," in authorisation of Italian wind projects. Industry players are still awaiting legislation to streamline and establish a uniform site permitting practice. While the government at large has ambitious plans for growth of wind energy, not all its members agree with that aim.

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