Italy to scrap ArcelorMittal legal shield for Ilva plant: lawmaker

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's ruling coalition has decided to scrap a legal guarantee it had previously granted to steelmaker ArcelorMittal MT.AS over its Ilva plant, a senior Democratic Party (PD) lawmaker said on Monday.

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The move could worsen relations between the Italian government and the global steel group, which bought the plant in southern Italy last year and has threatened to shut it down if the legal guarantee was revoked.

Dario Stefano, the centre-left PD’s deputy Senate leader, told Reuters the PD and its coalition partner the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement had jointly agreed to drop the legislation granting the immunity.

The guarantee gives the Ilva plant immunity from prosecution related to a clean-up plan for the plant.

Italian Industry Minister Stefano Patuanelli will meet ArcelorMittal’s managers in the next few days, a government source said.

ArcelorMittal was not immediately available for comment.

In June, the previous coalition of 5-Star and the right-wing League scrapped the legal immunity ArcelorMittal received as part of its purchase of the heavily polluting steel plant, which it promised to bring up to required environmental standards.

The new government of 5-Star and the PD, which took office in September, reinstated temporary and limited protection in an emergency decree which the upper house Senate was due to approve this week.

That protection scheme will now be removed, Stefano said, adding that the decision will be formalised at a vote in the Senate industry committee later on Monday.

The 5-Star Movement, which has a strong environmentalist platform, used to advocate the closure of Ilva prior to a March 2018 national election.

Stefano said the PD will ask the government to ensure job levels are safeguarded at the plant, which is located in the city of Taranto in Italy’s under-developed south, where it employs more than 8,000 workers.

In June, senior steel industry executives urged the European Commission to strengthen measures to protect against a surge in imports triggered by U.S. tariffs, saying the future of the European industry was under threat.

editing by Gavin Jones. Editing by Jane Merriman