Holding homemade banners featuring a welter of slogans like “Don’t Play With
Fire!” and “Carmel Doesn’t Need a Second Disaster,” residents of the Carmel and
Emek Hefer region on Tuesday protested the planned construction of natural gas
treatment sites in their midst.
“We are for gas, completely,” said Yoni
Ari, director of the “Gas to the Sea” protest movement. “We just want it
treated out at sea.”
Bearing signs and beating drums, some 250
demonstrators from the region packed the plaza outside the Energy and Water
Ministry’s Jerusalem offices on Tuesday morning.
The protest followed
last week’s heated Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee meeting,
during which MKs Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Dov Henin (Hadash) questioned the need
to build refining stations onshore, at Hagit in the Megiddo region and a second
facility in Emek Hefer.
Gas is slated to flow into the refining
facilities from the approximately 535-billioncubic- meter Leviathan reservoir
130 km. west of Haifa – which should come online within a few years. Natural gas
from the adjacent 282-b.cu.m. Tamar reservoir 80 km. west of Haifa, which
is already online, undergoes treatment processes both at sea and onshore in
In front of the Energy Ministry on Tuesday, Ari slammed
government officials for their wavering opinions on the issue and criticized
Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom for refusing to meet with
“Despite meeting dozens of times with the tycoons, the folks
from Noble Energy, he’s refused to meet with us even once,” Ari told The
. “But the reality is that building offshore is good both for
Israel’s citizens and for its energy independence.”
Stressing that “gas
is no joke,” Ari warned that placing the facilities within a kilometer of
populated areas could have bad consequences.
“We won’t just accept it,”
he said. “We’ll lie down in from of the tires of the tractors that come to dig
if that’s what it takes to stop them.”
Manning a loudspeaker at the
center of the crowd, Odelia Banai of Emek Hefer spoke on a similarly grave
“I think it’s outrageous that the government wants to build gas
refineries in the middle of Emek Hefer,” she told the Post
for my life, my children’s lives, my home. Everything. It’s insane. At
some level, everyone in the community talks about it.”
Yotam Shadmon, a
resident of Kibbutz Hama’apil, who spoke as he carried his daughter on his
shoulders, dismissed government plans as harmful in several
“They’re trying to build a refining station quite close to my
home. It’s polluting and it’s dangerous,” he said. “But it’s a security threat,
too. They’re planning to lay the pipes in exactly the narrowest part of the
country, between Tulkarm [in the Palestinian Authority] and the sea. One
explosion could cut the country in half.”
Shadmon praised the “Gas To the
Sea” movement’s organizing approach, drawing attention to its emphasis on
collaboration between Carmel and Emek Hefer residents.
“Nobody wants to
push gas facilities onto the other. We both want to push them out to sea,” he
During the Knesset discussion last week, Henin and Herzog asked
that the committee examine the placement of the gas processing sites, and
committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) committed to holding an
additional discussion on the subject after the Knesset recess.
response to the uproar last week, Bini Zomer, director of corporate affairs at
Noble Energy – the largest stakeholder in the Tamar and Leviathan projects –
told the Post that carrying out at least some treatment onshore is logistically
Although initial treatment can take place on a rig at sea,
when the gas travels to the shore through undersea pipelines, the pressure is
reduced, causing condensate, a low-density mixture of hydrocarbon liquids, to
separate from the gas, and necessitating additional drying treatment onshore, he
explained. This process requires absolutely no refining and generates zero
emissions, Zomer said.
Following Tuesday’s demonstration, the Energy and
Water Ministry said that “the issue is currently in planning processes and a
decision about the location of the facilities is under the jurisdiction of the
National Council for Planning and Building” – in the Interior
Encouraged by the recent Knesset efforts to address their
concerns, however, demonstrators continued to aim defiant words at what they
suggested is an unresponsive Energy Ministry.
“Silvan Shalom needs to
wake up,” Ari said. “He needs to choose what’s more important – the tycoons, or
the safety of the Israeli people.”
Protester Ofelia Banai shrugged,
unsure of whether there was any chance to persuade the government.
one must hope. We can’t give up, because our lives are at stake here,” she said.