July 11, 2011 / 12:07 PM / 9 years ago

Enel's LNG project in Italy awaits top court ruling

* Top court ruling on Enel’s LNG project seen next week

* Project blocked by local, environmentalist opposition

CATANIA, Italy, July 11 (Reuters) - Italy’s biggest utility, Enel , hopes a top court will rule next week on its blocked plan to build a major liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal in Sicily, a senior Enel official said.

Italy which heavily depends on energy imports has two LNG terminals and a series of projects are at various stages of lengthy authorisation processes.

Enel started a permitting marathon for its 850 million euro ($1.22 billion) project to build an eight billion cubic metres (bcm) LNG terminal in Porto Empedocle on the island of Sicily in 2004, seeking to boost its gas supplies.

Italy’s industry and environment ministries approved the project by a decree in 2009.

But local authorities of the town of Agrigento near the planned terminal, backed by consumer and environmentalist groups, have turned to a regional administrative court saying their opinion on the project had not been considered.

The Lazio administrative court blocked the project last December. Enel appealed to the top adiministrative court, the State Council, against the decision. The State Council hearing is due on July 19.

“We hope it’s a final one ... and with a favourable decision,” Giuseppe Luzzio, Enel’s head of major infrastructure projects, told reporters at an energy workshop over the weekend.

Luzzio declined to say whether Enel would restart the permitting process or scrap the project if the top court backed the regional court’s decision. “We will have to think about it, together with local administrations,” he said.

In May, the State Council cancelled government clearance for Enel’s 2.5 billion euro project to convert a major oil-fired power station to coal. But Enel hopes new laws would allow it to start works on the project next year.

($1=.6991 Euro)

Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova

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