State Comptroller Joseph Shapira 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Energy and Water Ministry and the government as a whole must take the
necessary steps regarding the country’s search and extraction of its natural gas
resources off the coast “without any further delay,” both “budgetary and
organizational,” State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said on Tuesday.
is necessary to “prevent a large ecological disaster” in the Mediterranean Sea,
he said in a report.
Shapira added that such a disaster would be
multifaceted and substantially “impact the environment, health and the economy”
for individual citizens and for the nation as a whole.
said that the natural gas, only discovered in the state’s coastal waters in
2004, is a critical and relatively cheap source of energy.
complimented the Energy and Water Ministry for taking initial steps to
capitalize on using the gas in a way which will most benefit the
Shapira added, however, that the steps taken “were not enough”
and were moving forward “at too slow a pace,” in terms of safety and of meeting
the country’s immediate energy demands.
He expressed concern that the
state was not encouraging enough competition surrounding the search and
extraction of the gas, with one supplier monopolizing the issue.
look out for the state’s energy independence, the “best interests of the entire
population” over the “long term” in terms of “the environment and economically,”
as opposed to the narrower interests of the supplier or a particular interest
group, the state needed to develop a set vision that the current supplier and
any future ones would need to follow, he said.
Shapira’s statements wove
seamlessly into the overall vision of Thursday’s report on a myriad of issues
and of his term as comptroller, namely, that all state activities, economic,
environmental or otherwise, should be viewed from the perspective of how they
can most benefit “all Israeli citizens,” especially those who are unable to
advocate for themselves.
In a separate section of the report, the
comptroller said the government had failed to implement warnings from previous
reports, and cabinet decisions regarding moving forward with securing and
safeguarding dangerous substances held by government and business establishments
around the country.
A report in 2004 noted the issue and a cabinet
decision in 2008 instructed the Energy and Water Ministry (then the National
Infrastructure Ministry) to be the central coordinator of securing the dangerous
substances, but that no substantive progress has been made.
In two other
sections of the same report, Shapira noted the problem of “pirate [natural] gas
stations” (suppliers selling without the proper licenses and credentials) and of
improperly supervised use of natural gas, which not only harms the economy, but
has led to many incidents causing property damage and even death.
were around 100 “pirate fuel stations” in 2012 and a large number of other
illegal establishments for selling gas, only 28 of which the Interior Ministry
succeeded in closing, Shapira said.
With sales of gas in those and other
unsupervised contexts, from 2009 to 2012, there were 8,785 accidents following
the use of gas illegally or without following proper safety procedures, leading
to leaks, explosions, asphyxiation, and poisoning, said the report.
2012 alone, there were such 4,752 incidents, the report noted.