TAP gas pipeline 'pointless,' says Italy's new environment minister

Italy's new coalition government has put the $5.3 billion TAP pipeline project under review.

“Given [our] energy policy, given falling gas demand, that project today looks pointless,” said Italy's new Environment Minister Sergio Costa, a member of the environmentally conscious 5-Star Movement. The pipeline is said to be under review, but it remains unclear whether the review will lead to any specific actions from the government.

TAP is intended to transport natural gas to Europe from Azerbaijan's largest gas field, Shah Deniz. Construction of the 878 km pipeline is on schedule and already 73% complete, TAP President Walter Peeraer announced on 30 May. Any review of the project is likely to generate tension between Italy and the consortium behind the project, including BP, SOCAR, and several other international energy giants.

The populist 5-Star Movement formed Italy's current government last week in coalition with the right-wing League. A stated goal of the movement is to phase out fossil fuels by 2050, replacing them with renewable energy sources. Criticizing TAP, party members have pointed out that Italy's demand for gas is much lower than it was ten years ago, and that TAP would constitute a danger to the environment in southern Italy.