Italian environment agency powers disputed

New agency chief warned to stay out of policy-making, announces new initiatives

Italy's environment minister Edo Ronchi and the new chief of the national environment agency, ANPA, have clashed over the extent of ANPA's power's at the agency's annual meeting being held in Florence.

In a news agency interview yesterday, Walter Ganapini of ANPA called for an extension of the agency's brief. It should "function as the backbone of environmental protection" in Italy, he said. Mr Ganapini also demanded more control over the agency's spending. Much of it bypasses ANPA, he said, with the result that the agency currently has around IL33bn (Ecu16.9m) of unspent funding attributed to it. "This is a dangerous precedent," he said.

Speaking at the conference this morning, Mr Ronchi warned ANPA not to stray out of its core role of data acquisition and reporting. The agency should stay clear of policy making, he said. "If the system works we will all benefit. But if we pursue conflicts and competition rather than cooperation, then we will only generate more confusion and further complications."

Mr Ganapini sought to defuse any arguments this afternoon, stressing that "it would be silly to erect barricades and argue amongst ourselves". The ANPA chief concentrated on the agency's need to gain full administrative autonomy, adequate staffing levels and the necessary weight to liaise on an equal footing with similar institutions at European level.

Mr Ronchi came to his aid on the thorny issue of setting up ANPA regional offices in southern areas of Italy (ENDS Daily 18 February). The minister issued an ultimatum to the heads of eight regions that have failed to create offices, warning them that central government would take over the running of local environmental affairs in the next few months unless progress was made. "If anyone thought that the setting up of local ANPA offices could be avoided, they were wrong," the minister added. "No gaps can be left in the ANPA network."

Several new ANPA initiatives have been announced at the conference. The national environmental information system, Sina, has been transferred from the environment ministry to the agency "in the last few days," according to Mr Ganapini. The agency would now "fine tune" the system as well as creating new monitoring networks on radioactivity and electromagnetic fields, he said. Other "important competencies" would be transferred to ANPA shortly, he continued.

Mr Ganapini also announced the establishment of an environmental hotline, be run by ANPA and the environmental arm of the police. "At the moment, if the Haven [an oil tanker that sank off the coast of Genoa in 1991] sinks at 5pm on Friday," he said, "the agency finds out about it at 9.30am on Monday."

Follow Up:
ANPA, tel: +39 6 500 071; Italian environment ministry, tel: +39 6 70361.

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