Hundreds of residents of Kiryat Malachi and the surrounding communities
blockaded Road 40 at Kastina junction on Sunday morning, in protest of a future
natural gas plant to be built in their midst – posing as disaster victims amid
an ashen plume from a smoke machine.
With new Kiryat Malachi Mayor Yossi
Hadad, demonstrators young and old from the region and activist organizations
brought traffic to a crawl, in an attempt to draw attention to a recent
government decision to approve a natural gas power plant in the Be’er Tuviya
As the Kiryat Malachi region was under rocket threat
during the November conflict with Gaza, the residents are concerned that a
natural gas plant situated in a populated complex that also contains ammonia
tankers would be a great risk. Marching on the road, residents held various
signs, including one that read “One missile is enough to kill 35,000
The demonstration comes just three days after Home Front Defense
Minister Gilad Erdan filed an appeal against a ministerial committee’s recent
decision to approve the plans, calling upon the government to reduce the local
population’s missile attack risk. The minister’s appeal will bring the issue
back to the general cabinet for discussion and review.
“We demand the
government and especially the environmental protection minister meet the
challenge and ensure that this dangerous plan is changed,” said Adva Dror, the
resident leading the struggle.
“Residents are unable to accept the
position offered by the developer, and we will take all measures possible to
maintain our lives and our security. The demonstration today is only a first
minor step in the fury and resistance that will explode in the area if the
location of the gas plant is not moved.”
The Ministerial Committee for
Internal Affairs, Services and Local Government approved the plan’s
establishment on May 5, in what residents have described as a “secretive” manner
– failing to include the vote on the committee’s meeting
Residents complained that they did not hear that the decision had
even occurred until a week after it was made.
The future plant in
question belongs to Israel Power Management 3000 (IPM) Be’er Tuviya, and will
hold 500 kilograms of natural gas split into two containers, according to the
company. Local activists, on the other hand, have accused IPM of planning to
hold 35 tons of gas there.
After receiving Be’er Tuviya Regional Council
support in May 2006, the plant obtained a production license authorization in
Zoning processes concluded in February 2008, and the National
Infrastructures Committee received the company’s plans for the project on
November 30, 2012.
While in January the Southern District Committee for
Planning and Building recommended that the project not receive approval, the
National Infrastructures Committee decided to okay the plan this
The ministerial committee granted the final approval necessary
for the project on May 5 – the direct impetus for the Sunday morning protest on
IPM has reiterated that the plant will be built according to the
highest of international safety standards and that the 428- megawatt power plant
presents no risk to the area. Particularly in response to Erdan’s appeal of the
ministerial committee’s authorization, the company said that the plans were
approved after being deemed completely safe by governmental professionals and a
special investigator hired by the state.
Meanwhile, Home Front Command
officials via the IDF Spokesman determined that the plant adhered to necessary
regulations just a month ago, according to the company. While the Home Front
Command is a separate office from the Home Front Defense Ministry, IPM
executives said they found it “puzzling” that Erdan would take an opposing
stance on the issue.
In response, Erdan stressed that the two offices are
separate entities and do not necessarily offer the same
Most troubling to the minister, however, was the fact
that no comprehensive study of alternative locations for the natural gas plant
has taken place, Erdan told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday morning.
alternative study never took place because once a company acquires a license to
produce electricity at a specific site, the Energy and Water Ministry typically
backs the company automatically, he explained.
“If you want to work with
the private sector you cannot allow those with land to come to you,” Erdan told
the Post. “You should come to them.”
Meanwhile, even if the location
technically meets regulations in terms of required distance from residences,
there is a difference between placing a gas plant in a industrial zone with
factories only and one with a crowded shopping center, according to the
“We support locating a power plant inside an industrial area,”
Erdan said. “When you have innocent people coming to shop, it’s totally
different from people who are working in a factory and are well-trained and
equipped and know where to go.” It is therefore vital in such cases for the
government to launch a master plan and determine the best locations for such
power plants beforehand, Erdan continued, stressing that this is the protocol he
followed for constructing recycling plants in his previous role as environmental
The Ministerial Committee for Internal Affairs,
Services and Local Government – whose approval decision Erdan appealed on
Thursday – is chaired by the interior minister, and also includes the finance
minister, the energy and water minister, the construction and housing minister,
the environmental protection minister, the immigrant absorption minister and the
transportation minister. While Erdan said he was certain that Construction and
Housing Minister Uri Ariel voted against the plan, he said that Environmental
Protection Minister Amir Peretz abstained from the vote.
Environmental Protection Ministry, he stressed, also abstained from the previous
National Infrastructures Committee vote on the issue in February – while he was
still minister – because ministry officials were divided into two camps: those
who felt that the plan met regulations and those who were concerned about the
lack of alternatives study, Erdan said.
The protesters, meanwhile, called
upon Peretz to take responsibility as a minister for the presence of hazardous
materials, and as a resident of the region for its transfer to a safer location.
Demanding that the prime minister and other cabinet ministers not approve the
proposed location, the residents asked that they choose one of several
alternative locations in the region that they have proposed.
to an inquiry from the Post, Peretz’s office said that the Environmental
Protection Ministry considers in principle the establishment of natural
gas-operated power stations as a “correct and positive process, in the effort to
reduce air pollution caused by power stations running on coal and diesel.” A
wide range of professionals, including many from the Energy and Water Ministry,
have appeared before the committee and denied any existence of danger to the
area’s residents, the ministry explained.
“Despite this, Environmental
Protection Minister Amir Peretz decided not to support the proposal with a vote
and to abstain from it, due to the fact that alternatives to the location
presented were from a long time ago,” his office said.
meanwhile, did not respond with a comment by press time as to the reasons for
the construction and housing minister’s negative vote.