Sicily's new oil boom threatens marine life, campaigners warn

Pristine and fragile stretches of the Sicilian coastline are under threat from the rush to plunder the island's rich oil resources, environment campaigners warned yesterday.

With 100 new wells being prepared, energy companies have set their sights on the highly biodiverse region where the government has encouraged exploration through tax breaks. And campaigners were angered by the news that the family of Italian Environment minister, Stefania Prestigiacomo, who will vet the drilling applications, has financial interests in a company working with Italian oil prospectors.

In July, the authoritative US journal Science warned that the oil rush on Sicily's south-west coast was threatening one of the planet's "marine biodiversity hotspots". But one of the key companies that stands to supply technical equipment to major oil firms jockeying for oil sites off the Sicilian coast is Coemi, which was founded by the Prestigiacomo family.

The company's managing director is Maria Prestigiacomo, sister of the Environment Minister. The company is now owned by Fincoe, in which Stefania Prestigiacomo held a 21.5 per cent stake until November 2009, when she passed the holding on to her mother, Sebastiana Lombardo.

Oil giants ENI, ERG and the Italian division of Esso are among the clients listed on the Coemi website.

No one at the Environment ministry was available to comment yesterday. But Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper quoted a ministry spokesman as saying that that since the arrival of Stefania Prestigiacomo, the laws on oil drilling had become more severe, with drilling limits being extended to five kilometres from the coast.

But Alberto Zaccagni, who is leading the campaign against the drilling off some of Sicily's coastline, including Pantelleria and the Egadi islands, said: "We're asking if this minister of the environment is able to objectively evaluate applications to drill here from oil firms given that companies managed by her relatives have business links with those who want to do the drilling.

"The coast around the islands of Pantelleria and Egadi contain some of the most beautiful, unspoilt areas with the highest degree of biodiversity in the Mediterranean. Any significant degree of pollution could prove disastrous."

Some experts have warned that should a major spill occur in the Mediterranean, then it could take 100 years to clear, in such a small, enclosed sea. Roberto Danovaro of the University Polytechnic of the Marche noted in the Science report: "The Mediterranean is much richer than we think. We still discover new species every year. We can't risk losing that."

Oil firms active in Sicily are already in the process of negotiating compensation payments for the environmental damage caused by their refineries. Pierfrancesco Rizza, president of the Sicilian branch of WWF, said that the fines were "modest given the enormous damage" that had been done.

Earlier this year Mr Zaccagni wrote to Ms Prestigiacomo to criticise plans by the UK firm Northern Petroleum to drill for oil off the coast of the Italian region of Puglia, which if approved he said "would represent the beginning of a veritable invasion of the Adriatic Puglia by foreign oil companies".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project