Piombino, protest against the regasification plant: “You are killing the fishing and tourism industry”

lug 2, 2022 0 comments

By Cecilia Sandroni*

Last Saturday’s one-time demonstration of 2,000 people gathered in Piazza Bovio against the 170,000 cubic meters regasification plant was all it took to put under the national spotlight this 30,000-inhabitants town overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and opposite the Island of Elba. A small city, that of Piombino, undermined by ten years of industrial decline and a though fight against the twofold increase of special waste disposal site that currently has only been interrupted, as well as the dreams of people living in Piombino who, after two years of global pandemic, have finally seen and will see cruise ships reaching their port.

No one says anything on how the Golar Tundra is likely to impact on the future marine port of Piombino. The little people in Piombino know about the new top-down project is that the offshore support vessel ship, built in 2015, is 293 meters long and about 44 wide. It was purchased by Snam for 330 million dollars at the beginning of this month. We are talking about the so-called FSRU ship, a storage and regasification unit that is used to bring the liquefied gas - GNL carried from natural gas tankers -, back to its original gaseous state. It has a regasification capacity of 5 billion cubic meters annually and it itself will be able to contribute up to about 6,5% in the national demand, according to first-hand statements on behalf of Snam.

However, people in Piombino are well aware that the gasifier at their closest, the one offshore from the port of Livorno, has a licensing range of 2 nautical miles (where navigation, anchoring, stopping, fishing or any other activity at sea are strictly forbidden). That is the exact point from which the popular uprising originated: why is the regasification plant in Piombino directly placed in the port? In Italy no similar facility exists, there are systems of this kind abroad, but yet they are located inside petrochemical poles.

‘If all the expected precautionary measures were implemented a little further north, the entire city would need to be evacuated. Instead, here the idea is to provide routine activities carried out in a commercial and touristic port that experiences the transit of 3 million passengers and tourists for or from either Elba or Sardinia’, as a group of participants taking part in the No-Rigassificatore Committee states.

‘This project undergoes the Seveso law, thus, in order to avoid any victim in case of an accident - as the Committee of Public Safety of Piombino declares - the city center and a large part of the outskirts would be condemned, as well as our only road in or out of town’.

The Mayor of Piombino Francesco Ferrari, emerging from a meeting in Region last Friday, when the regasification plant draft was displayed, claimed his strong concern regarding the position of that regasifier just a few tens of meters away from ferries, either arriving or departing, that daily run no less than 120 sea routes over the months of July and August. On top of that, the permanent presence of a regasification terminal in the port is likely to compromise every already existing small and medium-sized enterprise and every emerging business that could have set up shop in our port, for instance Tankoa Yachts, which had already detected the port of Piombino to increase its own manufacturing activity of superyacht. Another aspect not to be overlooked is that Piombino is the venue for the first national fish farming facility. In this day and age, when there would be all the necessary prerequisites for a definitive diversification from the centuries-old combination between city and steel factory, a bulky regasification plant that has very few working posts to offer and a lot to prevent is brought to the city.


Not without a reason the first ones to arise and set up the No-Rigassificatore Committee are precisely the fishermen. The owners of the shellfish farming report, data in hand, that water waste produced by the regasification plant ending up in the sea is endangering marine flora and fauna due to sodium hypochlorite, well-known as bleach. The government is indeed determined to place in Piombino an ‘open-circuit’ Golar Tundra, that is an installation leveraging a huge amount of seawater to heat up large ‘radiators’ and bring liquified gas to temperatures able to transform it into its gaseous state, which will eventually funneled towards underground gas pipelines. The sodium hypochlorite is specifically used with the purpose of preventing seaweed and micro-organisms from damaging ship piping systems. The whole issue is happening on the outskirts of Santuario dei Cetacei and sheltered waters, such as Parco dell’Arcipelago Toscano, along with safeguarded islands, as for instance the ones of Giglio, Montecristo and Pianosa.

The minister of the Green Transition Roberto Cingolani and president of the Region Eugenio Giani have pledged to the city of Piombino ‘compensations’ ranging from the construction of a new road to the port (a promise dating back many years) to decontamination activities (ever carried out in the SIN area - Site of National Interest -, owing to steel industry).

Where was and currently is the government when sitting at the table of Economic Development? Less than one month ago we were provided with milion-euro contracts from Ferrovie dello Stato and we saw quickly fade away…’, as a group of metalworkers explains.

‘Another such strong discontent is affecting the city owing to the dismantling of the hospital and it is therefore making all the townspeople live in a serious uncertainty about the future in so many ways. How is it possible for leaders not to realize that we only wish to live at peace on our land? Or should we instead think that once again a great number of people’s fate is being tied down to the misfortune of having the suitable depth of a seabed or an available dam? We are willing to fight in order to prevent mere technical data from stopping the business turnarounds and development of a city that for decades has been making a substantial contribution to the national richness thanks to its steel mills, costing many lives and work-related illnesses’, as the group of metalworkers concludes.



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