Italian city of Piombino files appeal against LNG terminal project
Florence, Nov 24 (Reuters) - The Italian city of Piombino has launched a legal challenge against a government-backed project for a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Tuscan port that is seen as key to helping wean Italy off Russian gas.
The appeal to an administrative court includes "a precautionary request" to suspend work to set up the floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU), the municipality said in a statement. It added that it was confident that judges would quickly rule on the request.
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Italian gas grid operator Snam has already begun preliminary operations in Piombino, but has not yet started construction work on the pipeline that will connect the FSRU to the gas grid.
Piombino mayor Francesco Ferrari has led local protests against the project, claiming risks to safety, the environment and local businesses, including fish-farming.
"We are aware of the energy emergency and that new gas supply measures are in the national interest, but this cannot disregard safety guarantees for the community in Piombino," he said in the statement.
Snam declined to comment on the appeal.
Ferrari is a member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy party. The government is pushing for the floating LNG terminal as part of plans to diversify Italy's energy supplies in the wake of Russia's war on Ukraine.
The terminal needs to be operational by the end of March to help Italy replace dwindling Russian gas supplies, Claudio Descalzi, CEO of energy group Eni, has said, adding the timely completion of the project was crucial to re-fill the country's gas storages by next winter.
Eni will use the terminal to import LNG.
Rome expects to get more than 8 billion cubic metres of additional LNG mainly from African nations as well as Qatar and the United States by next winter, two sources had told Reuters.
The new volumes cannot fit into Italy's three existing LNG terminals. That means Piombino, a second newly-acquired FSRU that Snam plans to set up in 2024 and an already planned expansion of one of the existing terminals will have to absorb the new flows.
Last year Russia provided 38% of Italian total gas consumption while this year Algeria has become Rome's biggest fuel supplier.
(Reporting by Cristina Carlevaro and Silvia Ognibene, editing by Alvise Armellini and Keith Weir)