Protecting biodiversity from the continuous deterioration of natural habitats and threats to certain species is one of the main issues considered by the European Union in its environmental policy, oriented to the conservation of natural and semi-natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna within the territory of member states. To this end, a network of special protected areas was established at European level under the Directive “Natura 2000”, involving various Italian regions and areas. In addition to almost uncontaminated natural habitat, the network also includes certain environments transformed by man over time which represent important areas for the survival of numerous species of plants and animals. The protection of Natura 2000 sites is mandatory (Italian Presidential Decree 357/1997 “Regulation implementing Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats, and of wild flora and fauna” and Italian Presidential Decree 120/2003).
The regulation establishes that the territorial planning and programming must take into account the naturalistic- environmental value of Sites of Community Importance (SCI) and Special Protection Areas (SPA). In addition, it establishes that any plan or project, inside or outside these areas, which may in some way affect the conservation of protected habitats or species, must be subject to an appropriate assessment of the impact it may have on the sites concerned. Prior to the implementation of new measures, the development of new networks and the execution of significant maintenance activities (revamping/repowering), which may lead to environmental impacts for the “Natura 2000” protected areas, they must be submitted for prior assessment in order to protect the integrity of the area. It is also necessary to verify that machinery, plants and equipment subject to the measures possess the environmental requirements necessary and to assess the potential impacts resulting from the use of hazardous substances and the adoption of appropriate management measures. In particular, the impact assessment (art. 5 Italian Presidential Decree 357/1997) is the procedure implemented in cases where an intervention may significantly affect an SCI or an SPA in the “Natura 2000” network. The Ministry of the Environment and the Protection of the Land and Sea publishes decrees which list the Italian SCIs.
The realisation and management of plants, activities and projects must be carried out in accordance with Italian environmental regulations (Italian Legislative Decree 152/2006) which provide for the integration of environmental aspects in the development of plans and programs and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), with the aim of identifying and assessing in advance the effects on the environment of certain public or private projects – in their start-up phase or in case of significant changes to existing projects – and of identifying the measures to prevent, eliminate or minimise negative impacts on the environment before they actually occur, analysing the impact in terms of atmospheric emissions, water withdrawals and discharges, waste, noise and odours.