Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan filed an appeal on Thursday against a decision the Ministerial Committee for Internal Affairs, Services and Local Government made to approve the establishment of a natural gas power plant in the Be’er Tuviya industrial complex.
“On days in which the threat of missiles increases, the government must make every effort to reduce the risk to the population and distance strategic infrastructural facilities from the threat,” said Erdan, a former environmental protection minister.
Residents from the Be’er Tuviya and Kiryat Malachi area who have been actively fighting against the plant in question slammed the same committee earlier this week, accusing the ministers of approving the plans in secret at their May 5 meeting.
While the meetings’ agendas are supposed to be published in advance, the approval of a Be’er Tuviya natural gas plant was not on the meeting’s schedule, the residents complained.
The residents did not know the results of the decision until a week after it was made, they said.
The plant in question is that of Israel Power Management 3000 (IPM) Be’er Tuviya, and residents have expressed continuous concern about the gas facility’s proximity to ammonia tankers in the industrial zone as well as Gazan rocketfire during times of strife. While the residents have accused the company of planning to hold 35 tons of gas there, IPM has stressed that only 500 kg. will be at the site, split into two containers.
“These proceedings were taken in secret and the ministers are well aware that an approval of the program – which is dangerous and expensive to the state – would bring endless outcry,” said Adva Dror, the resident leading the struggle.
The project first received Be’er Tuviya Regional Council support in May 2006, followed by a production license authorization in April 2007. Zoning processes concluded in February 2008, and the company presented its plans to the National Infrastructures Committee on November 30, 2012, as the future facility had been deemed a national infrastructures project.
While in January the Southern District Committee for Planning and Building recommended that the project not receive approval, the National Infrastructures Committee okayed the plan from their perspective in mid-February.
The NIS 2 billion combined cycle steam and gas plant is supposed to have a total capacity of 428 megawatts, approximately the size of Reading in Tel Aviv. IPM has reiterated that the plant will be protected against harm according to the highest of safety standards and that there is no risk to the area.
Maya Jacobs, CEO of the environmental organization Zalul, accused the government, however, of behaving irresponsibly and continuing to act indifferently toward the interest of citizens.
“The government must stop this dangerous process and order the construction of the gas plant at a safe distance from the ammonia concentration that is in the industrial area,” she said.
In response to the latest developments, IPM stressed that the gas plant was approved by the Ministerial Committee and by the National Infrastructures Committee after being deemed completely safe by governmental professionals and a special investigator hired by the state, who examined all objections and reservations toward the project's construction. Meanwhile, only a month ago the Home Front Command officials announced via the IDF Spokesman's Office that the Be'er Tuviya plant was following "the highest standards set by the Home Front Command," according to the company. Any structure to be built in a risky area requires the approval of the Home Front Command and must incorporate the the protection measures recommended by this office, the IDF statement said.
"Therefore, it is puzzling that the minister reserved the stance of professional bodies in his office to the opposite of what Home Front Command has said," the company argued. "Moreover, Environmental Protection Ministry Director-General Alona Shefer-Kaor has also stated publicly that the plant meets the requirements of the law."