Nat’l Council approves Beer Tuviya gas plant

Residents "stunned" at decision, vow to take issue to High Court; National Council accused of prejudice against periphery.

power station protest 370 (photo credit: (Be’er Tuviya Regional Council)
power station protest 370
(photo credit: (Be’er Tuviya Regional Council)
Despite the objections of local residents, the National Council for Planning and Building approved on Monday evening the establishment of a natural gas power plant in Be’er Tuviya, near Kiryat Malachi.
“The National Council for Planning and Building heard the objections and decided to approve the station on conditions whose goals are to maintain safety at the plant and in the gas pipeline leading to it,” the Interior Ministry said.
For several years, Be’er Tuviya and Kiryat Malachi area residents have been protesting the construction of the plant, which is slated to hold 35 tons of natural gas, 9,000 cubic meters of diesel, and pipes carrying up to an additional 170 tons of gas in the Be’er Tuviya Industrial Zone.
When a barrage of Gazan rockets slammed into the area last March, the residents submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice.
After Operation Pillar of Defense in November, when residents said that more than 15 rockets hit the site, they called upon several government ministries to immediately relocate the planned facility. At the end of December, the Southern District Committee for Planning and Building likewise recommended that the project not proceed.
Erecting the natural gas plant will be IPM Be’er Tuviya, a former subsidiary of Shikun V’Binui (Housing & Construction Holding Company Limited) that was eventually sold to Triple-M Power Plants Ltd.
On Tuesday, the residents of Kiryat Malachi and the Be’er Tuviya Local Council said they were “stunned” by the National Council’s choice to move forward with the plan, despite the widespread opposition of regional and municipal bodies, the Movement for Quality Government and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan.
Meanwhile, the findings of a report generated by American risk evaluation firm Gex- Con have likewise deemed the area unfit for a natural gas plant. Additionally problematic is the prospective power plant’s location next to a 70- ton ammonia facility, according to the residents.
Adva Dror, chairwoman of the residents’ campaign, said that the National Council’s decision was “a disaster that we cannot tolerate.”
Noting that the residents only learned about the decision through the media, Dror slammed the National Council for its “blatant disregard” for the community.
“The residents will do whatever it takes to prevent this disaster,” Dror said. “We are confident that sympathetic listeners will be found both in the court and among new Knesset members and government ministers, first and foremost whoever is chosen as the interior minister – who of course cannot begin to start granting approval to plans that endanger the lives of citizens.”
Dr. Esti Rosenblum and attorney Merav Meyron Goren, from the clinic for local governance, planning and environment at Sapir Academic College’s law school, said the plan to establish a natural gas plant at the site was injurious to social justice. The project, they said, was “an example of the preference of economic interests of developers over the basic rights of residents to life, health and environment.”
The power station would be at the expense of Kiryat Malachi and surrounding residents, while the electricity generated from it would mostly head to residents of central Israel, they said.
Bilha Givon, founder and director of the Sustainable Negev organization, accused the National Council of demonstrating prejudice against residents of the southern periphery, and approving a plan in the Be’er Tuviya Industrial Zone that the government would never authorize in the densely populated Center.
The developers at IPM welcomed the National Council for Planning and Building’s decision to approve the gas plant’s construction, stressing that this project would join other power plants around the country in making a significant contribution to Israel’s energy security.