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Dialogue with the Local Communities

In article 58 of its Code of Ethics, "Hera commits to giving due regard to the suggestions deriving from the communities in which it operates and to this end sets up consultation, information and participatory initiatives. This is particularly true for communities located near the plants."
The Group's commitment is more significant in the territories in which it builds or expands waste treatment or electricity production plants. In 2011 the activities of the RABs of Ferrara and Imola continued, while the activities of the Raibano (Rimini) RAB were interrupted due to the difficulties associated with the participation of the three Municipalities concerned.

What is a RAB?

RABs (Residential Advisory Boards) are a way companies and the public at large can get together and exchange information and monitor environmental indicators.
A RAB facilitates communication, the exchange of information and interactions between a company and the citizens residing in the urban areas surrounding the plants belonging to the company, these being areas in which environmental impacts or risk situations can easily develop, with direct repercussions on the urban environment. This mechanism was tested for the first time in 1998 in the Netherlands on the outskirts of Rotterdam, hosting a petrochemical complex managed by Shell.

The RAB at Ferrara

The first RAB (Residential Advisory Board) which the Hera Group participated in started up in Ferrara in 2005, in relation to the upgrading of the waste-to-energy plant managed by Hera. Currently, it comprises 4 members elected by citizens of the neighbourhoods in question, the President of the District where the plant is located and two Hera representatives.
The planned model has introduced many innovative elements in the relations between Hera and the local community insofar as the presence and environmental impact of the waste to energy plant. The distinctive features that the RAB of Ferrara has created in its role are as follows:

  • RAB members from the citizenry can freely access the Hera plants in Ferrara, in order to personally check on operations and view the main documents (analysis of atmospheric emissions, waste products records etc.);
  • intense data collation and documentation activities: in the first five and a half years of its activity (from May 2005 to December 2011), the RAB met approximately 130 times, around twice a month, much more often than the 3 annual meetings envisaged by the Articles of Association;
  • the organisation of public meetings, involving technicians and specialists who illustrate and discuss the issues identified. Specific attention was paid to health aspects linked to waste management and separate waste collection, on which the RAB was several times the leading party during meetings in the various areas adjacent to the plant;
  • control of compliance with commitments undertaken, such as local offsets, meaning the creation of a new roadway link, the diffusion of district heating (connected to the recovery of heat from waste-to-energy plants), and the realisation of six hectares of new wooded area in the area between the plant and the nearby inhabited area of Porotto.

In 2011, periodic checks continued on the data pertaining to the operation and atmospheric emissions of the waste-to-energy plant according to the procedure defined by the RAB together with the Hera technical personnel responsible for the plant, with quarterly reporting on the waste disposed of (with indication of the type and origin of the same) and the atmospheric emissions (compared with the legal limits and the IEA). The two reports are first illustrated to the RAB, then made available on the RAB site, www.rab-fe.org, which provides additional documentation such as the RAB newsletter and updated information on planned initiatives.
In 2011, the RAB planned several meetings for in-depth discussions, among the most significant issues it tackled:

  • results of the study on the ground surrounding the waste-to-energy plant carried out by Ferrara ARPA technicians appointed by Hera;
  • the Ferrara Tumours Register, illustrated by the individual responsible Dr. Stefano Ferretti;
  • clarification by the Counsellor for the Environment in the Province of Ferrara on the stage of implementation of the Provincial Plan for the Management of Waste (PPGR) in relation to requests for extension of the landfills in the provincial area;
  • separate waste collection in the Municipality of Ferrara: 2010 results and 2011 projects;
  • illustration of "Tracking waste", Hera project concerning separate waste collection;
  • illustration by Herambiente technicians of the biomass combustion project at the Ferrara waste-to-energy plant.

The activities of the RAB were widely publicised in issues 10 and 11 of the RAB periodical "Vediamoci Chiaro" (Let's see clearly), 5,000 copies of which were distributed to the local community.
As a result of this project that promoted the establishment and development of the Ferrara RAB, in 2006 the Hera Group was awarded the Sodalitas Social Award in the category "Internal Social Responsibility Processes."

The RAB at Imola

Linked to the Hera cogeneration plant in Imola, the RAB is composed of 12 members: 3 representatives of Hera and 9 residents, 3 of which were appointed by two forums (district boards), one by a Residents Committee, and 6 elected on 12 April 2007 through public elections in which over 2,700 residents voted.
After the initial sharing of the main documents on the new plant, in order to better address the various issues and render the work of the organisation more effective, the RAB has established three internal working groups: technical, environmental/health, communication.
From its inception to the end of 2011, the RAB met publicly 45 times. Inspections of the plant are also envisaged so as to check its functioning. The minutes of the meetings and the onsite inspection reports are all available on the RAB website at www.rabimola.it. Furthermore, it organises and promotes an annual public meeting for all citizens in order to present its work.
The main objectives of the Board include the supervision of the plant by means of analysis of all the regulations linked to the running of the plant so as to check Hera's accurate observance. It is a point of reference for citizens for the transparency of information about the plant and its impact on the city.

The Imola RAB studies air quality

The activities for monitoring the plant are flanked by a project whose launch and realisation stage characterised the Rab's activities in 2011, in order to study the air quality and the relative impact on the health of the population of Imola. The project is being worked on by Hera, the Municipal Authority, Arpa and the Local Health Authorities in order to quantify the role of the major elements causing pollution (traffic, industry, heating, etc.) and to define an updatable assessment model based on the emissions report, which can also be used to assist in urban planning.
Arpa has worked on the mapping of the different sources of emissions, analysing traffic data, that of the air quality monitoring units located in Imola, gas consumption and the environmental authorisations issued to the various industrial facilities operating in Imola. With regard to the part of the project which involves the Local Health Authority, which intends to seek correlations between air pollution and illnesses affecting citizens, meeting have been held with health professionals and a chart recording the data has been put together. 11 health professionals are involved and around 600 charts have been distributed.

In 2010, the Municipal Authority of Imola obtained the Pimby Prize, in the energy category, for the Hera co-generation plant: this is an acknowledgement which rewards the local authorities which complete work in their areas, coupling compliance with the rules and citizens' consensus.