Slovenia's foreign ministry last week registered alarm and opposition over an announcement by an Italian official that Rome is preparing to approve plans by a subsidiary of the German energy company E.On to build an offshore liquefied natural gas terminal in the Gulf of Trieste.
The ministry also opposes plans by SNAM Rete Gas to construct an accompanying pipeline under the Adriatic Sea from Trieste to Grado and on to Villesse, Italy.
"The Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses its deep dissatisfaction over the announcement of Italian Minister of the Environment Stefania Prestigiacomo for several reasons," the Ljubljana government said in a statement.
Slovenia, it said has "voiced numerous grave doubts about the projects." It says mercury piled atop the Northern Adriatic seabed would be disturbed and cause marine pollution and that the construction of the offshore regasification terminal "would threaten maritime fishing activities and pose danger to the health of the local population."
Also, Ljubljana said, offshore construction "would disrupt the transport system in the Northern Adriatic with possible negative impacts on tourism in the region."
Slovenia accused Italy of carrying out a "deficient" environmental assessment of the project, saying "does not deal fully with the issues of security and the prevention of major incidents, cross-border impacts on Slovenia and does not abide by the precautionary principle" -- a European Commission policy holding that if an action has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public the burden of proof falls on those taking the action.
In its objections, Slovenia is citing a long legacy of mercury mining in its region of the shallow Gulf of Trieste that began hundreds of years ago, dating as far back as the Middle Ages.
The mining over the years left a toxic covering of the heavy metal as well as the compound methylmercury on the sea floor.
Opposition to E.ON offshore terminal has mounted in Slovenia this summer. Last month the mayors of two tourism-dependent cities along its Adriatic coast -- Koper and Piran – strongly protested Rome's likely approval of the projects.
The towns' mayors -- Boris Popovic and Peter Bossman -- said they whatever they could to stop the construction, contending that offshore terminals were too risky environmentally.
The European Commission is studying the environmental impacts of not only the E.On terminal and Trieste-Grado-Villesse pipeline, but an array of other on-shore and off-shore LNG projects proposed for the Gulf of Trieste as it energy companies eye its strategic location, which can provide access to the wider European gas grid, including Italy, Austria and Germany.
The EC, Slovenia says "has made it clear that decisions on the launch of investments cannot be taken without knowing and taking into consideration cumulative impacts of all energy projects on the environment in the Gulf of Trieste and without knowing potential cumulative cross-borer effects on the environment."