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    A woman casts her ballot for a referendum on the duration of offshore drilling concessions, in Pavia, Italy, Sunday, April 17, 2016

    Italy Voting in Crucial Referendum on Offshore Drilling Rights

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    A referendum is underway in Italy on offshore oil and gas drilling rights on Sunday, with voters deciding whether the government should revoke drilling concessions for any offshore fields less than 20 kilometers (12 miles) away from the Italian coastline.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) In the yes or no referendum, Italian voters are being asked whether they want to stop offshore drilling concessions from being renewed after expiry, Il Ponente online newspaper reported.

    ​Running from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. local time (06:00 — 22:00 GMT), the referendum must see a turnout of at least 50 percent in order to become valid.

    ​Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi reportedly urged voters to boycott the referendum, arguing that a successful yes-vote would lead to the country to heaver dependence on energy imports and cost thousands of jobs. 

    By early afternoon, the turnout came to a national average of 8.3 percent, with slightly higher figures in southern Italy, Il Sussidiario online news outlet reported. The turnout may yet increase significantly in late afternoon, the publication added.

    The poll is being conducted in accordance with the right to scrap legislation by popular vote provided by Italy's constitution. 

    ​In December, Renzi's government extended existing 30-year offshore drilling concessions until resource exhaustion. If the decision is scrapped, concessions would expire over the coming decades and drilling would stop, as no new concessions are being awarded.

    The referendum was declared after a campaign by nine regional governments, mostly led by Renzi's own Democratic Party.

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    Tags:
    referendum, offshore oil drilling, Matteo Renzi, Italy
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