Italy lower house approves plan to save ILVA

ROME Wed Dec 19, 2012 8:48am EST

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ROME (Reuters) - Italy's lower house of parliament on Wednesday approved legislation to keep the troubled ILVA steel plant going during a two-year clean-up to resolve environmental concerns.

The Chamber of Deputies approved the decree by 421 to 21 votes. It will now move to the Senate for final approval.

The future of Europe's biggest steel plant, an employer of thousands in southern Italy, had hung in the balance after magistrates ordered it to close over accusations that emissions from the site had caused an environmental disaster.

The legislation removes court administrators who were running parts of the plant and orders the appointment of an independent supervisor to oversee a plan to install cleaner technology.

Mario Monti's government passed the decree in November but it still needed parliamentary approval.

The battle over the future of ILVA, owned by the Riva Group, has been one of the biggest challenges facing Monti's government and a symbol of the struggle to preserve heavy manufacturing in Italy.

Industry Minister Corrado Passera has said its closure would cost the wider economy up to 8 billion to 9 billion euros with knock-on effects throughout the whole of Italian industry.

A series of environmental reports have blamed toxic emissions from the site for abnormal levels of tumors and respiratory diseases in the region around the city of Taranto.

ILVA produced 8.5 million metric metric tons of steel in 2011, nearly 30 percent of Italy's total output.

(Reporting By Catherine Hornby; Editing by David Cowell)

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