The government approved an emergency measure on Friday to allow the Ilva steel plant in the southern city of Taranto to continue its operations, provided the company invests about $3.9 billion to modernize the plant to meet environmental standards. The case, which pits health concerns against the need to protect 20,000 jobs in heavy industry, has tested the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti, which estimated that the economy would suffer losses of $10.4 billion a year if the plant closed. Mr. Monti, above, said the government needed to safeguard both public health and jobs as the plant carried out its cleanup. On Monday a court ordered the seizure of parts of the plant as a criminal investigation looked into claims of environmental damages caused by the plant's emissions. Some studies have found that cancer rates around the steel plant, Europe's largest, are significantly higher than elsewhere in Italy. Ilva had said that the investigation would force it to close the plant. An independent monitor will supervise Ilva's plan to improve its technology.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.