Oil and gas producers in 26 areas offshore Italy will be able to drill until their fields run dry, after a referendum failed to draw enough voters to re-instate a deadline on the concessions, Politico EU reported. The referendum had asked Italians whether the government should stop renewing offshore drilling licenses within 20 km of the coast, but only over 29% of voters turned out, falling short of the 50% threshold needed to make the referendum valid.
The result was a relief for Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, who had called on people to abstain, saying the vote was unnecessary and would have hurt the economy. In addition, as Reuters reported, it was also good news for energy firm Eni, which potentially had the most to lose.
Although new drilling concessions are no longer being handed out, Renzi said existing sites should have the option to remain operational until they are fully depleted, warning that 11,000 jobs would have been put at risk had the referendum passed. Meanwhile, opponents argued that allowing drilling to continue indefinitely would slow the country’s shift to renewables.