Italy court ruling allows work on Tuscan LNG terminal to proceed
Rome, Dec 22 (Reuters) - An Italian administrative court has ruled against a request for a precautionary halt on works for a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Tuscan port city of Piombino, saying it did not pose an immediate threat to public safety.
The city administration, led by mayor Francesco Ferrari, last month filed a legal challenge against the government-backed project, which Rome sees as key to helping wean Italy off Russian gas.
The challenge included a "precautionary request" to suspend works to set up the floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) at Piombino's port citing safety risks for the local population and maritime traffic.
The court said on Thursday it had scheduled a new hearing on March 8 to assess longer-term safety issues relating to the floating terminal. It could still decide to stop the project on that occasion.
Italian gas grid operator Snam bought the LNG vessel in the summer and is in charge of the whole project, including connecting it to the national gas network and operating the terminal.
The infrastructure needs to be operational by April to help Italy replace dwindling Russian gas supplies and to re-fill its gas storage by next winter.
Ferrari, a member of the right-wing Brothers of Italy, the same party as Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, said the court's decision was based on the fact that the FSRU was not yet operational.
"We will consider further actions against the way Snam is managing the construction sites that were already started," he said in a statement on Thursday.
The government-appointed special commissioner for the project, Tuscany president Eugenio Giani, urged Brothers of Italy to open a dialogue with Ferrari as it was in the "general interest" to set up the terminal in the Piombino port.
"Today Italy has won," he said in a statement.
Snam is satisfied with the ruling, company's sources told Reuters, adding the gas grid operator was doing its best to have the additional gas available by the planned deadline.
The Piombino terminal will have a capacity of 5 billion cubic metres (bcm) and will allow Italian energy groups to increase LNG imports to the country.
In Italy there are currently three LNG terminals with a total capacity of nearly 17 bcm.
(Reporting by Marco Carta in Rome, additional reporting by Francesca Landini in Milan and Silvia Ognibene in Florence; writing by Giulio Piovaccari; editing by Valentina Za and Keith Weir)