Trans Adriatic Pipeline on Trial for Uprooting Olive Trees in Puglia

TAP executives have been summoned to appear in court on May 8 and will face charges of committing environmental damage including the unlawful removal of olive trees.

By Julie Al-Zoubi
Jan. 16, 2020 14:28 UTC

The com­pany behind the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and 18 of its top exec­u­tives have been called to trial in south­ern Italy.

In the region of Puglia, TAP has been respon­si­ble for uproot­ing at least 10,000 olive trees, includ­ing some listed as mon­u­men­tal,” to make way for the con­tro­ver­sial pipeline, which is being con­structed to trans­port gas from Azerbaijan.

We are going through hard times, being pun­ished for defend­ing our home and future gen­er­a­tions.- Sabina Giese, anti-pipeline activist

TAP exec­u­tives have been sum­moned to appear in court on May 8 and will face charges of com­mit­ting envi­ron­men­tal dam­age. The com­pany has been accused of car­ry­ing out unau­tho­rized work in restricted areas and on agri­cul­tural land deemed to be of con­sid­er­able pub­lic inter­est,” pol­lut­ing ground­wa­ter and the unlaw­ful removal of olive trees.

In 2017, Olive Oil Times reported on the wide­spread protests in Puglia that broke out when the com­pany was given the green light to uproot more than 200 trees to facil­i­tate con­struc­tion of TAP’s Italian ter­mi­nal in Melendugno, despite ongo­ing appeals.

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The upcom­ing court case against TAP has failed to quell the anger of the No-TAP orga­ni­za­tion, which was formed to pre­vent the pipeline’s con­struc­tion. Around 100 of the group’s mem­bers have been charged with par­tic­i­pat­ing in unau­tho­rized demon­stra­tions, block­ing roads and insult­ing a pub­lic offi­cial at the height of the 2017 protests.

Sabina Giese who is heav­ily involved in the No-TAP move­ment told Olive Oil Times that charges had already been brought against 25 No-TAP activists. They appeared in court back in January.

Giese said there was wide­spread frus­tra­tion at the length of time taken to bring TAP to account and anger that the author­i­ties had been much quicker in bring­ing charges against peace­ful pro­test­ers.

She also expressed out­rage that work on the pipeline has not been halted in light of TAP’s trial and sug­gested there had been cor­rup­tion between Italian and Azerbaijani gov­ern­ment offi­cials, but pro­vided no evi­dence to back up this claim.

Vito Matteo

Giese played an active role in what she called the legit­i­mate and peace­ful protests” of 2017 and went as far as tying her­self to an olive tree to pre­vent its removal.

This resulted in her being taken to court and charged with delay­ing work on the pipeline.

We are going through hard times, being pun­ished for defend­ing our home and future gen­er­a­tions,” she said.

The doomed olive trees were given a short reprieve when a court order was issued against their uproot­ing. However, the trees were removed after TAP pledged to metic­u­lously care for them and even­tu­ally replant them on their orig­i­nal sites.

Giese said that far from being well looked after, the olive trees are dying. She claimed to have pho­to­graphic evi­dence and reports that sup­port this claim.

Puglia’s gov­er­nor, Michele Emiliano, was instru­men­tal in bring­ing charges against TAP and had the sup­port of sev­eral local towns, the envi­ron­ment min­istry and other con­sumer and her­itage asso­ci­a­tions. Giese said that fund­ing for the hear­ing has been pro­vided by lead­ers of the No-TAP Salento group includ­ing Alfredo Fasiello.

The TAP project was given the go-ahead in Puglia, a region highly depen­dent on agri­cul­ture and tourism, despite threats to the envi­ron­ment includ­ing; the destruc­tion of olive farms, dam­age to water sources, loss of cul­tural her­itage sites and a reduc­tion in the local coast­line.

No-TAP claimed that res­i­dents and envi­ron­men­tal­ists were not con­sulted prior to the con­struc­tion of the pipeline. They also believed there was a fail­ure in ade­quately assess­ing the envi­ron­men­tal impact of the pipeline, which, accord­ing to No-TAP, fell short of the Paris Agreement on reduc­ing fos­sil fuel pro­duc­tion.

The charges against TAP were coor­di­nated by the Lecce pros­e­cu­tor fol­low­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion by the cara­binieri – Italy’s main law enforce­ment agency.

TAP exec­u­tives called for trial include Michele Mario Elia, TAP’s coun­try man­ager for Italy, and project man­ager Gabriele Paolo Lanza. Marco Paoluzzi, direc­tor of RA Costruzioni SRL, the com­pany which car­ried out the works, was also named as a defen­dant.

TAP has declined sev­eral requests from Olive Oil Times for com­ment on the charges against the com­pany.


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