Offshore natural gas plant back on the table

Citizen pressure prevails as option of offshore barge put on list of possible sites.

Gas 311 (photo credit: Ron Friedman)
Gas 311
(photo credit: Ron Friedman)
Victory for the residents of the Carmel Coast: After weeks of protests and pressure, the National Planning and Construction Council decided Tuesday evening that as per the residents’ demands, the option of an offshore barge would be put on the list of possible sites for the construction of a processing plant for natural gas from the deep-sea reservoirs Tamar and Dalit.
The council, the highest planning authority in the country, met Tuesday to determine which sites would be included in a comprehensive environmental survey prior to deciding on the final location of the plant. A slim majority of 11 versus nine members determined that the previously rejected offshore option would be included in the survey.
“Though it’s not a done deal yet, we think that the council is now leaning in the direction of placing the plant on an offshore barge or alternatively in an industrial zone near Acre,” said Rami Sadeh, the spokesman for the resident’s campaign.
“Though the Carmel Coast options are still on the table, we are pleased that the committee decided, against the will of the investors and the National Infrastructures Ministry, to re-examine the offshore option as we demanded.”
“We consider it an amazing achievement and salute the council for not bowing to the tycoons, who wanted to build the plant in a residential area and thus risk the well-being of the residents and harm the public and national interests,” said Sadeh.
Until the council’s meeting on Tuesday, the offshore option, which the residents feel is safest, had been dismissed by the state bodies.
State officials had repeatedly said building an offshore barge for the plant would mean that the natural gas from Tamar and Dalit reservoirs would take too long to arrive in Israel, thus risking Israel’s energy sustainability and costing the economy billions.
During the past month there has been widespread speculation over where the site would be and which sites the council would choose to place on its shortlist.
Different bodies preferred different sites for a variety of reasons.
While the Environmental Protection Ministry preferred Ashdod, as the site that would cause the least amount of environmental damage, the National Infrastructure Ministry preferred sites located further to the north near Hadera or Acre to spread out the receiving sites and the risk of damage to them.
One thousand residents of the region came to Jerusalem to demonstrate in front of the council’s offices. The northerners, wearing sloganbearing t-shirts and holding up banners, urged the members to look out for the public good and not bow to the will of the gas companies.
“Don’t be bananas, don’t bend over,” read one sign.
“Gas has no smell, corruption does,” read another.
The residents of Zichron Yaakov, Dor, Nachsholim, Fureidis and Ein Ayala have been speaking out against the plant ever since they learned that their region was on a shortlist for possible plant locations.
Worried that the 150- dunam processing plant, containing highly pressurized gases, would endanger their lives, pollute their environment and ruin their view, the residents launched an aggressive campaign against the investing companies, Delek Energy and Nobel Energy, and against the state authorities who they claimed were acting in favor of the companies and against the public interest.
Over the past three months the residents have been holding regular townhall meetings and weekend protests against the plant, recruiting politicians, celebrities and the general public to their cause.
The campaign fed off the distrust many in the public feel towards state-capital collaboration, and accused the National Infrastructure Ministry and the National Gas Authority of a series of wrongdoings in advancing the plans.