Enel seeks damages from Greenpeace

December 9, 2009

By Guy Dinmore in Rome

published on December 8 2009

Enel, Italy’s largest utility, has taken the unusual action of seeking more than 1.6m euros in damages against Greenpeace for alleged losses in electricity production and damage caused by protest actions launched by the environmental group at Enel’s coal-fired power stations.

Giuseppe Onufrio, executive director of Greenpeace Italy, said yesterday the group would contest Enel’s claim despite its warning of possible legal action.

“If Enel are trying to intimidate us into shifting our campaign activities away from climate change, the first priority for the world’s environment, they are making a big mistake. Burning coal is the single biggest source of CO2 emissions and Enel’s plans to expand its use of coal will accelerate climate change,” Mr Onufrio said.
Enel confirmed it was seeking damages. Its claim, issued shortly before the Copenhagen climate conference, is a signal that the state-controlled utility intends to take a tougher line in promoting its expansion of coal-fired power stations despite local opposition.

The claim against Greenpeace comes as environmental and other activists prepare to protest against plans by Enel and the centre-right government to relaunch Italy’s nuclear industry after a two-decade moratorium. Officials are in the process of identifying potential sites.

A letter from Enel’s lawyers to Greenpeace gave details of the 1,606,545 euros in alleged damages accrued since 2006 down to the last cent, including the 1,365.75 euros charged for cleaning the giant chimney at Porto Tolle which Greenpeace activists abseiled down, painting No Carbone on the structure.

The bulk of the claimed damages were said to be the cost of lost production at the Brindisi coal-fired station and a nearby coal offloading jetty, most recently during the G8 summit last July. Enel switched to more costly – but less polluting – fuel oil to keep the station going.

“Fining Greenpeace for having protested against coal power plants is like fining trade unions when they strike. We have a right to protest, and a right to protect the planet,” Mr Onufrio said.

Citing official statistics, Greenpeace says the Brindisi plant is Italy’s biggest emitter of CO2, producing 44.4m tonnes in 2008, and that Enel is Italy’s largest industrial CO2 emitter.

Enel said it had reduced its emissions of CO2 by 35 per cent this decade, while Italy’s overall emissions increased by three per cent.

“Greenpeace should know its numbers well,” it said, saying that “only 31 per cent” of Italy’s CO2 emissions were produced by power plants of which Enel accounted for about one third. It said coal fired plants produced 13 per cent of Italy’s electricity, which compared with 45 per cent in “green Germany” and a 27 per cent European average

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