Environment Ministry puts brakes on plans for coal plant in Gerze
The people of Sinop’s Gerze are protesting plans to build a power plant in the area and guarding the entrance to the area against a power plant company. (Photo: AA)
The controversial Environmental Impact Assessment (ÇED) outlining plans for a 1200 MW thermal coal-fired power plant on the shores of Gerze in Sinop province was finally presented to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning, which found the 2,000-page document to be incomplete and suspended the process.
A statement from the Anadolu Group Thermal Plants Corporation on Thursday said the process would continue when the required documents are completed.
“As decided at the meeting [on April 30 at the ministry], all involved institutions and, in addition, the company which will make the investment are expected to complete their documents. When this is done, the process will continue,” the statement said.
As such reports are usually approved by the ministry without much hassle, it was remarkable that at least six institutions targeted the ÇED and found the submitted documents to be insufficient. Two of them, the Directorate of Forests and the Directorate of the State Waterworks Authority (DSİ) in Sinop rejected the report outright, saying that this area is not suitable for the construction of a coal power plant and that the plan should be cancelled.
After the ministry gave 10 days to the corporation to complete its documents and the company found the time insufficient, both sides signed an agreement for the completion of the documents as soon as possible.
“It will take a few months to complete these documents and resubmit them to the ministry. If they complete the procedures, then it will probably be approved. It is very rare that the ministry rejects ÇEDs,” said Baturay Altınok, an attorney for the Chamber of Environmental Engineers who follows the process.
Pınar Aksoğan, climate and energy campaigner for the environmentalist group Greenpeace Mediterranean, called on the Anadolu Group to be more responsible and cancel their coal project, adding:
“If just one of these councils [institutions represented at the meeting evaluating the ÇED] refuses to approve the report, then it cannot be accepted. The forest and water council’s arguments have no relation with the missing documents but concentrate on the environmental impact, so this increases the chance of cancellation.”
She also said that a crucial issue is missing in the report; that of climate change. Coal-fired thermal power plants are responsible for 41 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, a direct cause of climate change.
Şengül Şahin, spokeswoman for the Platform for a Green Gerze (YEGEP) -- which is against the construction of the plant on the basis that it will lead to the destruction of agricultural areas and harm specially protected areas in the region -- told Today’s Zaman that four busloads of people from Gerze went to Ankara on April 30 to oppose a possible approval of the ÇED. The group also made a statement that day in Ankara saying that the plant will burn 560 trucks worth of coal a day and release 56 trucks worth of coal ash, which will affect a wide geographical area.
When the ÇED became public on March 1, about 3,000 people from Gerze signed a petition and sent it to the ministry, indicating their concerns about the report, which they say distorts some facts and misleads authorities. Additional petitions to the ministry from agricultural associations, professional chambers, unions and consumer protection agencies voiced similar concerns.
The people of Gerze have been protesting plans to build the power plant in the area for three years. They have also been guarding the entrance to the area against the company.
In addition, even though the company opened an office in the town to inform local people of its plans, its officials haven’t been able to convince many residents of the benefits involved. A meeting arranged by the company as required in the process of preparing the ÇED was blocked by protests involving hundreds of worried residents.
The company says the plant will burn 8,000 tons of high-calorie, high-efficiency coal daily, imported mainly from Russia. They also stressed that the company is environmentally responsible and that everything they’ve done is in line with official procedures, regulations and the law.