Environmentalists attempt to halt Chevron operations in Israel

US energy giant is on track to acquire Noble Energy and its stakes in offshore gas fields

The Chevron Pascagoula Refinery is pictured as Tropical Storm Gordon approaches Pascagoula, Mississippi, US, September 4, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS)
The Chevron Pascagoula Refinery is pictured as Tropical Storm Gordon approaches Pascagoula, Mississippi, US, September 4, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
 The Zalul Environmental Association, an Israel-based nongovernmental organization, and Alistair International, an NGO advocating for native people in developing countries, are calling for Israel’s Petroleum Council to block the Chevron Corporation from doing business in Israel. 
“If Chevron is not honoring their current obligations in countries and communities around the world … and [is] attacking the defenders of populations whom have suffered from their inconsistent and destructive business practices, why should we trust Chevron to honor Israeli laws, Israeli court judgments and Israeli environmental regulations and respect Israeli lives?” the groups wrote in a letter to National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz and the Petroleum Council.
On July 20, Chevron, the second-largest oil and gas company in the United States, announced it was acquiring Noble Energy for $5 billion. When the latter’s $8 billion in net debt is taken into account, the value of the deal rises to $13 billion.
Noble Energy, a Houston-based firm, operates and owns stakes in Israel’s large Leviathan and Tamar offshore natural gas fields.
Zalul and Alistair International cite in their letter Ecuador’s Lago Agrio oil spill, one of the world’s worst ecological disasters, along with incidents in California and Nigeria, as an example of why the company cannot be trusted. 
In the Ecuador case, Chevron has delayed paying the $9.5 billion in damages awarded to 30,000 indigenous people by the Ecuadorian Supreme Court in 2013. The company also sued the plaintiffs’ lawyer American, Steven Donziger, for $35 million, in what 29 Nobel laureates called “judicial harassment,” for taking on the case. 
“Chevron has one of the worst environmental track records on the planet when it comes to oil safety, oil cleanup, respecting local lives and paying judgments against it, so it seems kind of ludicrous that if Noble is going to sell to somebody, why would the citizens of the State of Israel want an extreme bad actor to step in,” Yosef Abramowitz, an Israeli solar energy pioneer and a signatory in the letter, told The Media Line.
At the bare minimum, the NGOs are calling for the Knesset to hold a “fair and open hearing instead of rubber-stamping” approval to transfer Noble Energy’s Israel projects to Chevron.
“Israel’s gas and oil are assets of the citizens of the State of Israel and so we need to have a say [through a hearing] if Noble Energy … is going to bring in a partner,” Abramowitz said.
“It looks like the energy minister gave an assurance to Noble and to Chevron [that it could] keep a significant monopoly on Israel’s energy market in order to entice Chevron to acquire Noble, and that’s just wrong. It’s wrong economically and it’s wrong environmentally,” Abramowitz continued. 
He added that solar energy is a third of the cost of natural gas, and half of the cost if storage is taken into account.
However, Dr. Amit Mor, CEO of Eco Energy Ltd., a financial and strategic consultancy, and a senior lecturer in energy economics and geopolitics at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, disagrees with the environmentalists.
“The argument that Chevron is worse than noble doesn’t make sense from an environmental point of view, because Leviathan and [other] projects are developed and working, whether they’re owned by Noble or Chevron or any other energy company,” he told The Media Line. “The Leviathan platform is the newest in the world and it’s the most environmentally friendly treatment facility.
“From a national perspective,” Mor added, “it is good for Israel for a major oil company [with deep pockets] to operate in Israel, as the country is one that has major oil and gas projects.”
Not all those in the local energy industry are happy with the idea of Chevron operating in Israel, for fear it will mean jobs being outsourced abroad.
“Hopefully, they won’t bring a lot of expats from Chevron. Many people here have decided to study and learn the industry from scratch and if these options are closed to them, they will have to go abroad to find work,” Noa Binyamin, co-chairman of the Young Professionals in Energy Israel branch, told The Media Line.
Noble Energy did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Chevron, however, did respond: “The judgment against Chevron Corporation in Ecuador was the product of fraud, bribery and corruption. The environmental claims against Chevron are false and unsupported by scientific evidence. Decisions by courts in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Gibraltar and an international tribunal in The Hague confirm that the fraudulent Ecuadorian judgment should be unenforceable in any court that respects the rule of law. You can get more information on the Ecuador case here and on Chevron’s environmental stewardship here.”