Greater supervision must occur in offshore oil and natural gas drilling sites in
order to prevent environmental crises, experts agreed at a special Knesset
session held on Monday.
The forum occurred at a session of the Joint
Health and Environment Committee, led by committee chairman MK Dov Henin
(Hadash) and unveiling a new report about the environmental risks of deep sea
drilling, drafted by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam Teva
In previous discussions, Henin warned, the committee has revealed
that there are serious dangers to human health as well as to ocean ecosystems,
and currently no legislation exists regarding environmental protection of
exploration systems, according to a statement.
He went on to criticize
the fact that the National Infrastructure Ministry and the drilling companies
are currently overseeing their own environmental surveillance, and slammed the
government for failing to create any new regulation despite previous promises
and relying on an “anachronistic” Petroleum Law.
“Our support of the
advancement of natural gas solutions for Israel cannot conceal the problems and
dangers,” Henin said.
The Adam Teva V’Din report, drafted by the
organization’s air program head Dr. Arieh Wenger and legal department
representative Dana Tabachnik, summates that while there are huge economic
benefits to the immense discoveries of natural gas off of Israeli coasts, the
production process bears risks of damage to the sea, beaches and atmosphere. The
environmental costs could equal NIS 200 million in the Tamar reservoir
Of this estimated total price, NIS 40 million comes from the costs
of dealing with the 425,000 tons of carbon dioxide emitted annually, NIS 80
million from economic damages if a malfunction causes a methane leak, NIS 45
million for routine marine and coastal damage and NIS 43 million for additional
coastal and environmental damages due to an accident.
therefore recommend that a number of measures be taken to improve security, such
as having the Environmental Protection Ministry require gas companies to perform
intensive environmental impact assessments, as opposed to the voluntary surveys
that currently occur, according to a statement from the group.
responsible for exploration would also have to prepare emergency action plans
for treatment and rehabilitation, should a crisis occur.
government’s side, the report recommends adding amendments to current
legislation or creating entirely new legislation regarding environmental aspects
of drilling, while also separating the bodies in charge of authorizing licenses
and overseeing environmental risks – both of which currently fall under the
National Infrastructure Ministry. A better option, the report argues, would be
designating a body within the Environmental Protection Ministry to supervise the
The authors based their recommendations, more or less, on
those of an American report that examined failures that led to last year’s Gulf
of Mexico oil spill, which likewise determined that there is a conflict of
interest if licensing and environmental supervision are governed by the same
body, according to Adam Teva V’Din.
“The findings of the report clearly
suggest that oil and gas deep sea drilling have significant ramifications on the
environment,” Tabachnik said.
Her organization’s director, Amit Bracha,
“The praiseworthy production of gas can also cause damages to the
environment and to gas companies in bearing the monetary compensation, as is
customary in the world.”
Representatives from other green groups, like
the Society for the Protection of Nature (SPNI), also stressed that the current
legislation regarding oil and gas exploration is the opposite of
“This is a complex industry, in the deep sea, and
unfortunately, accidents do happen; we saw what happened last year in the Gulf
of Mexico. Tomorrow morning, this is also liable to happen here, in
Israel,” Ruti Schwartz, coordinator for energy and infrastructure at SPNI, said
at the hearing.
“SPNI believes that drilling necessitates an
environmental impact survey, which today is missing. There is a need for risk
management report and in general to oversee what happens at sea, and not by the
companies themselves, but by the state.”
In response, Rani Amir, head of
the marine and coastal division of the Environmental Protection Ministry, said
that his ministry has launched a tender seeking out a company to assist his
office monitor environmental security at sea.
But a representative from
the National Infrastructure Ministry, Mickey Gordis, contended that his ministry
had the steps necessary to ensure environmental safety under control.
are ahead of the Environmental Protection Ministry and already have signed a
contract with international consultants, who will assist us in the supervision
of activities at sea. The bid ended – we chose a Dutch company that is known to
get the job done,” Gordis said, according to a statement. “The knowledge already
exists in the National Infrastructure Ministry and now we will receive support
also from international companies, with the aim of preventing environmental
Dr. Ilan Nissim, who recently moved from the Environmental
Protection Ministry to the National Infrastructure Ministry, where he is in
charge of environmental protection, added that his ministry will be adopting
American legislation and will also soon be implementing changes in the Petroleum
An energy expert who was not present at the meeting, CEO and energy
specialist at the Eco Energy consulting firm Dr. Amit Mor, stressed to The
that all environmental surveillance measures instituted must be
done “in close collaboration with the industry.”
“There is no doubt that
Israel will need to set up environmental regulations and practices to supervise
offshore oil and gas exploration and production according to best industry
practices,” Mor said.