Each day the natural gas pipeline to Haifa is
delayed costs the economy NIS 1m. and forces Haifa residents to breathe
more polluted air from factories forced to use diesel instead, the
National Infrastructures Ministry says, and Minister Uzi Landau urged
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to speedily resolve the issue.
project has come to a halt in the Tel Kashish area between Yokne'am
Kiryat Tivon on the way to the Haifa industrial area.
The problem originated because the new pipeline has been
planned to run through private Druse-owned land in the area. The Druse
refused to allow the project to go forward unless changes were made to
the route of the northern rail line planned for the area.
The Druse demanded that in return for the train running in the
center of the planned Road 6 extension, they would allow the natural
gas pipeline to be built on their land.
An agreement to that effect was worked out between
the National Infrastructures Ministry, the Transportation Ministry, the
Druse and the other relevant ministries earlier this year. However,
when Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz assumed office, he ordered a
return of the train to its original path.
The matter was referred to the Prime Minister's Office to
broker a deal, and last week Landau sent an urgent letter to Netanyahu
asking him to address the matter.
The Prime Minister's Office told The Jerusalem Post
that "the topic of the infrastructures corridor in the area is under
examination as to its legal and planning aspects. The issue is
inter-ministerial in nature and we are working with all of the relevant
parties to find a solution."
The Transportation Ministry refused to delineate its objections
to the original agreement saying only "The topic is being dealt with by
the prime minister's office."
Natural gas, while still a fossil fuel, pollutes the air far
less than oil or diesel. Israel has been moving to increase its use of
natural gas for electricity production in recent years.
In addition to supplying Haifa's factories and oil refinery
with natural gas, the gas is needed for two power stations set to go
online in 2010. Every power station is critical for the steady supply
of electricity since reserves are so low at present.
Landau noted in his letter that one option was to find an
alternative route for the pipeline, but that such a route could delay
the project between 18-30 months.
In an attempt to bring pressure to bear, Environmental
Protection Minister Gilad Erdan also warned Haifa factory owners last
week that he would not continue forever to give them a pass to burn oil
or diesel instead of natural gas.