As the residents of Emek Hefer await the construction of a natural gas absorption terminal in their midst, Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau met with them on Thursday to ensure that the facility will not be the disturbance that so many of them fear.

Along with ministry director- general Shaul Zemach, Landau met in his Tel Aviv office with Emek Hefer Regional Council head Rani Eden and a group of residents to discuss the details of the gas transmission project. Creating another absorption terminal on Israel’s shores will be crucial to the country’s energy market, industrial development and environmental protection, Landau told the group.

“Israel produces about 40 percent of its electricity using natural gas,” Landau said.

“Currently, in light of the cessation of the supply from Egypt, all this gas comes from one terminal only, which is located in Ashdod. The country cannot be dependent on one pipeline alone.”

Assuring the group that the ministry had worked with a professional team of international experts to generate this plan, Landau stressed the critical nature of acting with full transparency toward the public along the way. After researching several different possibilities, the experts presented the alternatives to the National Council for Planning and Building, which ultimately identified the Emek Hefer point as most favorable.

“We see the establishment of two natural gas absorption points in the North as a strategic need for the country,” Landau said.

Addressing a question regarding the possibility of establishing an absorption terminal in the sea rather than on land, the minister said that his office sees strategic importance in promoting facilities in both places – but with a priority on land.

“Nevertheless, for the energy security of Israeli citizens, there is a clear preference for natural gas facilities on land, because on-land facilities allow for repairing glitches and accidents and more efficient maintenance and operation, in a much shorter time frame,” Landau responded.

Problems found in marine terminals can often take weeks or months to repair, and disable the entire supply system in the meantime, he explained.

“This is a situation that the country simply cannot afford,” Landau said.

Stressing the importance of continuing to involve the public in every step of the absorption terminal planning process, Landau pledged to continue keeping the residents aware of all the details going forward.

“It is essential to see that the natural gas transmission project advances and progresses, but no less important that the Emek Hefer residents do not fear it,” Landau said.

Hanna Kuperman, the head of the Israeli Forum for Coastal Preservation, expressed concern in response to Thursday’s meeting.

While the government has decided to prioritize land transmission, the sea absorption technology has been operating around the world since the 1970s, she told The Jerusalem Post.

The National Council for Planning and Building pledged two-and-a-half years ago to evaluate this option and has failed to do so, she added.

Acknowledging that the ministry has been explaining most elements of the plan to the public, Kuperman noted that many details have remained secret – including the recent gathering. The residents who met with Landau and Zemach on Thursday were all involved with local politics of some sort, and not “simple residents,” she explained.

“The technological plan that the government offers is going to ruin many beaches because they are going to put a huge platform, a huge unbelievable platform,” Kuperman said.

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