High Court puts partial brakes on oil drilling in Golan; Impact on Kinneret uncertain

The absence of an order meant that the NGO did not have a total victory over Ofek in a petition, which had demanded fully revoking the drilling licenses they were granted.

Oil Platform (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Oil Platform
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Without issuing a formal decision, the High Court of Justice on Tuesday publicly affirmed in an official court transcript partial limits on oil drilling on the Golan Heights, as fears of the long-term impact on the Kinneret and on waterways remained unresolved.
The hearing followed a petition by the environmentalist group Adam Teva V’Din and a group of Golan residents to block the Ofek Company from initial drilling checks to establish the volume of oil in the area.
The Greenpeace organization joined the NGO in a protest before the hearing in which they wore white anti-contamination suits to emphasize their slogan of “Switching to sun power – preventing the next disaster.”
The ruling came coincidentally on the same day that the Antitrust Authority delivered a blow to natural gas giants Noble and Delek, calling them a monopoly that must be broken up, and not long after a torrent of criticism about the state’s loose environmental regulation following the bursting of an oil pipeline in the Arava region near Eilat.
The absence of an order meant that the NGO did not gain a total victory over Ofek in a petition that had demanded fully revoking the drilling licenses they were granted.
However, over Ofek’s objection, the court said it affirmed the state and the NGO’s interpretation of Ofek’s drilling rights as being significantly limited to initial stages and a small number of distribution of barrels of oil.
Ofek had hoped to preserve a right to distribute more oil going through a streamlined process on the basis of a broader reading of the oil drilling rights the state had granted it, whereas the court said Ofek would need to have a full new plan approved for going beyond initial test drilling and for any major distribution of oil.
The NGO had said that the drilling could lead to serious polluting of Lake Kinneret and nearby rivers, farms and vineyards – the owners of which joined the petition.
Adam Teva V’Din Director Amit Bracha said, “We are talking about a major accomplishment with broad implications on distribution of oil in Israel.”
He added, “The High Court accepted our position that there is a separation between initial drilling testing and commercial distribution of oil and that at the initial testing stage there is no permission to distribute more than a small number of barrels of oil.”
Bracha concluded that the separation also meant there would be clear opportunities for oversight of environmental consequences to further drilling before that stage was reached.