Italy’s Constitutional Court gave the green light to a national referendum on the duration of oil and gas drilling concessions in the country, which is to be held on 17th April, muddying the waters for companies operating in the sector.
The referendum was requested by some regional governments and environmentalists, long fighting against drilling in the Adriatic Sea concerned about the effects it may have on marine ecosystems and seismic stability. It revolves around a law recently passed by the parliament –as part of broader economic reforms– according to which concessions already granted to offshore producers should be limited to the period until the oilfields in question are depleted, Reuters reported.
Italy is keen to lure oil and gas producers to its shores to help stimulate stagnating output that has contributed to higher energy bills and dependence on imports. But grassroots opposition to drilling and restrictive rules and regulations, including a 12-mile ban around coasts except for developers that already have permits in hand, has left investors lukewarm, stifling investment. Recently, Irish oil and gas company, Petroceltic, has formally given up seeking a prospective permit in the southern Adriatic Sea off Italy’s Tremiti Islands as market conditions have changed.
In addition, the government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said that there will be no new drilling in Italy regardless of the referendum outcome. It is reportedly mulling new modifications to the ‘Unblock Italy’ infrastructure projects decree related to the duration of drilling, Ansa reported.