Sicily’s regional authority and parliament have voiced protests to the central government in Rome over plans to allow oil companies to drill in Sicilian waters. The plans, which allow the companies to drill, were rushed through with virtually no consultation of local mayors and regional authorities. But having viewed the devastation caused to America’s coastline and tourist industry, Sicily is keen to avoid the same fate. They do have some experience of dealing with oil companies; in the 1960s, many oil refineries were constructed on Southern Sicily, leading to widespread pollution.
However, as one of his last acts in government (before he resigned after being investigated for corruption), the former Minister of Industry Claudio Scajola, issued new procedures for offshore drilling and new licenses to companies. In so doing he used a law that allowed him to bypass local authorities in the process.
The Sicilian strait, where much of the drilling will take place is an important ecological area, and is host to breeding grounds for tuna, swordfish, sharks and turtles. It will soon be declared a marine reserve. Only last year, large coral gardens were found in deepwater in the straits. With this in mind, opposition to potentially damaging drilling and potential ecological disasters seems valid.