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Beijing vows efforts to fight pollution: state media
by Staff Writers
Beijing Jan 22, 2013

Italy judges refuse polluted steel plant plea
Milan (AFP) Jan 22, 2013 - Italian judges on Tuesday rejected a request from the polluted ILVA steel plant to release products seized during an environmental probe, which the company hoped to sell to raise funds to pay 10,000 salaries and begin cleaning up the plant.

The refusal came as Fabio Riva, son of ILVA owner Emilio Riva and a vice-president at the company, was arrested in London as part of an investigation into whether the company knowingly neglected controls at the plant in southern Italy, which is blamed for the region's high cancer rates.

Judge Patrizia Todisco refused the request to release steel products worth around one billion euros ($1.32 billion dollars) which were confiscated by a court in Taranto in November.

ILVA had earlier Tuesday said in a statement that it wanted funds raised from the sale of the products for "clean-up works, salaries and everything necessary for the company to survive."

Mario Monti's technocrat government has battled to help the plant -- a key employer in a region hit hard by joblessness -- and the Italian cabinet is mulling a possible new decree to allow ILVA to sell the steel and use it to pay its workforce, according to local media reports.

In November, the government adopted a decree aimed at preventing the works from going bankrupt, but the Taranto judges slammed it as unconstitutional.

Earlier on Tuesday, Fabio Riva, wanted on a European arrest warrant, handed himself in to London's Scotland Yard, an ILVA spokesman said.

He is likely to be repatriated to Italy some time in the next few days, the spokesman said.

China's capital Beijing will strengthen measures to combat pollution, state media reported Tuesday, amid public anger over the dangerous air quality in the sprawling metropolis. Acting mayor Wang Anshun told the city's legislature that steps will include removing old vehicles from roads, shutting down coal-fired plants and planting more greenery, the official Xinhua news agency reported. "Beijing will complete afforestation of 66,000 hectares (163,020 acres) to make the city's forest coverage hit 40 percent or above" over the next five years, Wang said. "Its total emissions of major pollutants will continue to be reduced." Wang's comments came after dense smog engulfed large areas of northern China, including the capital, earlier this month, sparking public anger and media criticism. At the height of the pollution, Beijing authorities said readings for PM2.5 -- particles small enough deeply to penetrate the lungs -- hit 993 micrograms per cubic metre, almost 40 times the World Health Organisation's safe limit. Experts quoted by state media blamed weak winds, saying fog had mixed with pollutants from vehicles and factories and had been trapped by mountains north and west of Beijing. Coal burning in winter was also a factor. Wang said Beijing would retire 180,000 old vehicles and encourage the use of clean-energy autos in government departments. The city would replace heating systems in 44,000 old, single-storey homes and coal-burning boilers with clean energy alternatives as well as control dust in construction, Wang said. Beijing plans to close about 450 plants that spew large amounts of pollution, the report quoted municipal authorities as saying. "The core issue with Beijing's air quality is the growing population," Xinhua quoted Jiang Yi, director of the Energy Saving Studies Centre at Tsinghua University, as saying. "Currently, the population burden on Beijing's environment has reached maximum levels," Jiang said. "Pollution treatment cannot go on without population control." Beijing's population stood at 20.69 million people at the end of 2012, an increase of half a million from the previous year, Xinhua said, citing the Beijing Municipal Statistics Bureau. A total of 16.33 million people lived in Beijing in early 2008, it said.


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Brussels urges quick decision on freeze in pollution credits
Brussels (AFP) Jan 21, 2013
The EU executive Monday urged a quick decision on a freeze of 900 million tonnes of pollution credits auctioned to firms in 2013-2015 in order to raise the price of carbon and make investment in clean technology worthwhile. "There are too many permits because of the recession," said Isaac Valero, the spokesman for Europe's climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard. According to some estimate ... read more

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