(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
At the behest of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and
the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Economic Affairs Committee authorized
the addition of two environmental representatives to the Petroleum
The council, which advises the energy and water minister on
updating oil and gas drilling policy, will now increase from nine to 13
Initially the council had contained five members of the public
and four government representatives, all appointed by the energy and water
minister. Now, as per the Economic Affairs Committee approval, the energy and
water minister will be responsible for appointing seven members of the public,
two representatives from his own ministry, two representatives from the Finance
Ministry and two representatives from the Environmental Protection Ministry, via
recommendations from the environmental protection minister.
environmental considerations will be incorporated into the distribution of
drilling licenses and tenders for the exploration and production of petroleum,”
said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, hailing the decision. “In
this manner, it will be possible to reduce mishaps and environmental and health
damages that are liable to occur in the process of drilling and
Committee chairman Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud) noted that
“we are not long after the incident of the pungent smell in Gush Dan, and
therefore need to be vigilant” – a reference to the still mysterious stench that
overtook the region last Thursday.
“I will not introduce this proposal to
the plenum without environmental representatives,” he added.
meeting, Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau said he had already appointed
Sharon Nissim, head of the Kishon River Authority, and that it would be an
“exaggeration” to add another environmental representative, according to the
committee spokesman. After Shama-Hacohen approved the proposal, Landau requested
to submit his reservations, advocating that only one representative be appointed
via Erdan’s recommendations.
Meanwhile, MK Dov Henin (Hadash) asked to
submit a series of his own reservations, in which the environmental protection
minister would appoint seven out of the 13 members, the Finance Ministry two and
the Energy and Water Ministry the remaining four, according to the committee
Henin argued that the decisions of the Oil Council would end
up having farreaching environmental significance, citing the findings of a
report that followed the 2010 Gulf of Mexico crisis.
This report, he
explained, stipulated that there must be a separation between the energy and
environmental regulators when it came to drilling, rather than the energy and
water minister having all the responsibilities.
SPNI, which had been
fighting to get environmental representation on the committee for several years,
praised Wednesday’s outcome.
“SPNI welcomes the addition of two
representatives from the environmental protection minister to the Petroleum
Council,” the organization said in a statement.
“Drilling for oil and gas
has widespread implications for the environment, for values of nature, for
biological diversity, for water resources and for air in Israel.”
the current Petroleum Law, established in 1952, “archaic,” SPNI said many
challenges still lay ahead with regard to amending the processes of gas and oil
exploration licensing, as well as the environmental repercussions that went
along with such decisions.