Italian olive grove stands in way of European energy security

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MELENDUGNO, Italy In the name of European energy security, a private guard wearing a navy blue uniform, aviator sunglasses and a baseball cap walks around a grove of olive trees in southern Italy.

The 231 trees, surrounded by dry-stone walls on a dusty plain near the Adriatic coast, stand in the way of a $45 billion pipeline designed to bring gas from central Asia and help wean the European Union off its dependence on Russian energy.

Local authorities want the pipeline re-routed away from the prized grove, which includes trees thought to be more than 400 years old, but developers have Rome’s approval to proceed, on condition they are transplanted while pipes are laid and buried.

Wary of protests, the pipeline consortium, which includes Britain’s BP (BP.L), Azeri state energy company SOCAR and Italian gas company Snam (SRG.MI), has hired 24-hour security.

In reality, work on the Italian side of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) cannot proceed without local consent, threatening to delay a project that is meant within four years to carry the equivalent of 10 percent of Europe’s Russian energy imports.

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