'Gas plant could mean disaster if hit by rocket'

Kiryat Malachi residents say the plant, planned to be built where 15 rockets have hit, will danger citizens' lives.

Kiryat Malachi building hit by rocket  370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Kiryat Malachi building hit by rocket 370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
After 15 rockets pounded an area slated for natural gas infrastructure construction during last week’s conflict, the residents of Kiryat Malachi and Be’er Tuviya are bolstering their campaign against the site’s planned location.
Residents of the region collectively sent a letter on Sunday to the ministers of defense, interior and public security, as well as to the prime minister, demanding that the government work to immediately change the location of the natural gas facility planned to be in their midst.
During Operation Pillar of Defense, more than 15 rockets landed in the area designated to hold the natural gas facility, with six buildings located in a 300-meter radius of the site receiving direct hits, according to the residents.
The natural gas plant is supposed to contain 35 tons of natural gas and 9,000 cubic meters of diesel, as well as pipes leading to the facility that will at any given moment be carrying up to an addition 170 tons of gas, the residents said. This amount, they argued, is equivalent to 4,100 tons of TNT explosive material.
Residents have been protesting the location of the plant for several years, and in June, hundreds protested in front of a National Committee for Planning and Building meeting after it officially approved plans for the new regional power plant.
Previously, during a barrage of rockets that had plagued the area in March, Be’er Tuviya residents sent a petition to the High Court of Justice detailing their campaign. The project to build a 400-megawatt power plant was first promoted six years ago by Shikun V’Binui through its former subsidiary IPM Be’er Tuviya. However, due to public protest, Shikun V’Binui eventually backed out and sold IPM Be’er Tuviya to Triple-M Power Plants Ltd., according to the Be’er Tuviya Regional Council.
Triple-M has repeatedly ensured that proper environmental protection measures will be undertaken when constructing the plant, and the plant will conform to the highest possible safety standards.
In a report submitted prior to government officials prior to Operation Pillar of Defense, researchers found that a grad rocket falling in the area could crack the gas pipes and create “an explosive gas cloud with incalculable damage.”
The report, prepared by Dr. Yisrael Barzilai, a former director of hazardous materials at the Environmental Protection Ministry, stressed that the establishment of a natural gas facility in this location would bring unnecessary risk to a populated industrial area already filled with hazardous materials.
Responding to the latest protest against the facility, Asaf Vitman, CEO of IPM Be’er Tuviya, stressed that the plant is being built in accordance with the laws and policies of the Israeli government.
“To improve the environment and reduce electricity costs in Israel, energy plants based on natural gas have been established all over the country, in the center of Tel Aviv, Ashdod and Haifa, among others,” Vitman said. “In all of these areas rockets fell and tried to hurt Israel and its citizens.”
The Be’er Tuviya plant will comply with the strictest of European standards, and both safety and environmental surveys have already been conducted by experts who deemed the future facility safe, according to Vitman.
During last week’s conflict, a house located less than 40 meters from the planned gas pipeline was destroyed by a grad rocket, and another rocket fell on a logistics buildings situated just about the same distance from the site slated for gas facility construction, the residents explained.
“One can only imagine the intensity of the damage and the loss of life if instead of a home the grad had struck a gas facility,” the residents said in a statement.
Particular dangers would plague the thousands of people who visit the Big Shopping Center adjacent to the planned plant, as well as the seven ammonia storage facilities located in the area, the nearby vehicle fueling stations and the Central Bus Station – through which tens of thousands of people pass every day, according to the residents.
“It is inconceivable that the Israeli government is investing hundreds of millions in the protection of Israel’s residents by producing and situating Iron Dome systems, but abandons the lives of 50,000 residents and exposes them to danger by approving the establishment of a natural gas plant in order to appease the private interests of wealthy individuals,” said Adva Dror, director of the residents’ campaign.
“These days illustrate, unfortunately, what we the residents have been shouting about for already four years – that the establishment of a facility in this place is an inconceivable scandal, which is liable to end in incalculable disaster.”