Gas farm puts thousands in the north at risk

The Interior Ministry has been urged to act quickly to bury the farm's enriched-carbon accumulation facilities underground.

Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra is warning that residents of Kiryat Ata and surrounding areas are in danger because of the huge gas farm (Havat Hagaz) there, saying that the farm is operating unsafely and is putting their lives at risk, reports the Hebrew weekly Yediot Haifa. The minister urged the Interior Ministry to act quickly to implement a long-planned national project to bury the farm's enriched-carbon accumulation facilities underground. According to the report, back in April 2006 the government approved a national project to bury the facilities underground within 30 months, and also set out detailed measures to enable the farm to operate safely in the interim. But the project has been bogged down since, with the local Planning and Construction Committee refusing to approve a building permit to the gas companies that operate the farm. The reasons for the refusal were not reported. "Despite more than two years having passed since the plan was approved, the gas farm in Kiryat Ata is continuing to operate in an unsafe way and to endanger the residents of the area," the district manager of the Environmental Protection Ministry, Robert Reuven, wrote to the Interior Ministry last week. Reuven added that the Interior Ministry's National Planning Council should use its authority to get the plan implemented immediately and to approve the required building permit. A gas farm spokesman said the fault for the delay lies with the local Planning and Construction Committee, and that the project could and would be completed within 30 months of the building permit being approved. The spokesman also said the farm currently meets all national and international safety standards for existing gas facilities, and that the burial project would ensure that it would meet national and international standards for new facilities. He said farm managers hoped the intervention by Ezra would help speed up the process. An Interior Ministry spokesman said the ministry would bring the matter up for discussion by the national planning council.