‘Natural gas’ lobby behind dismissal of coal plant on olive groove, head of firm claims

‘Natural gas’ lobby behind dismissal of coal plant on olive groove, head of firm claims

‘Natural gas’ lobby behind dismissal of coal plant on olive groove, head of firm claims

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The head of a Turkish business group that cut down thousands of olive trees in western Turkey to build a power plant before the gambit was foiled by the judiciary has accused the “natural gas lobby” of annulling the project.

The Kolin Group of Companies had found itself under heavy criticism after it felled a total of 6,666 olive trees in Manisa’s Yırca village in November for the construction of a coal power plant.

The group cut the trees following the Cabinet’s rapid decision to expropriate the land near the Aegean coal capital of Soma, but Turkey’s Council of State officially overturned the decision on Dec. 26, blocking the plant’s construction.

The chairman of the group, Naci Koloğlu, broke his silence a day after the dismissal of the project, claiming the suspension of the plant project was a plot by the “natural gas lobby” and that people’s environmental sensitivities were provoked by “them.”

“The trees are just an excuse. The main issue is the extraction of local coal and transforming it into energy,” the chairman said, claiming that public anger about the project had been triggered by outside actors.

“Hundreds of thousands of trees were cut for the İzmir-Istanbul highway construction but nobody said anything. For this project, Turkey was raised to revolt. We didn’t have any problems with villagers. Everything happened suddenly. This is the work of the natural gas lobby,” he said.

Koloğlu said he was personally against “imported energy as there are local resources.” “Otherwise, why would I come Soma and try to extract coal after this age,” he said.

The businessman also claimed the villagers’ initial reaction to the power plant was positive but that their view changed after the May 13 mining accident in Soma that killed 301 miners.

“A sensitivity emerged in the region after the mining accident,” he said, defending his company’s decision to cut trees by citing financial reasons. “We were engaged in a $1 billion liability, so we had to be firm with our business agenda,” he said.

Kolin is also one of the companies involved in the construction of Istanbul’s controversial third bridge, which is resulting in deforestation over a large swathe of the city’s north.