Petitioners say placing facility near them will expose residents to environmental and safety hazards; ask Israeli High Court to order planning stopped until court hands down final decision on matter.
By Zafrir Rinat | Mar.28, 2013

Several towns in the Carmel foothills petitioned the High Court of Justice earlier this week against the decision to establish a large natural gas liquefaction facility in the area.

The petition, which was filed the town of Yokne’am and other communities in the Ramot Menashe area, states that the decision to locate the facility near them will expose the residents to environmental and safety hazards.

The petitioners want the High Court to order planning stopped until the court hands down a final decision on the matter.

The National Planning and Building Council decided five months ago to build the facility at Hagit, near Yokne’am, where an electric power station already exists. The council chose this site over other alternatives, in particular Ein Ayala, located near the beach north of the towns of Zichron Yaakov and Fureidis.

The petition also states that the choice of the Hagit site was made despite the fact that an Interior Ministry planning team that had studied the various alternatives determined that Ein Ayala was preferable because it is closer to the coastline and would require a shorter pipeline than Hagit.

According to residents of Yokne’am and the surrounding communities, the safety problems relate to the length of pipeline. The longer it is, the greater the likelihood of leaks that could release toxic substances into the air. They also say the proximity of Hagit to a military base, which could be a target for rockets in case of war, presents another serious risk to their safety.

The petition takes to task the local and regional council heads of the Carmel coast area.

The petitioners say the local authorities had coordinated an agreement with, and at the behest of, the Prime Minister’s Office, to build the facility at Hagit. This would place it far from where most of the regional council’s inhabitants live, but in so doing has placed the health and safety problems the petitioners envision right on Yokne’am’s doorstep.

The petitioners say the other alternatives that were under consideration had not been fully explored when the decision was made and that they want the process to be completed.

A group of local authorities and residents that opposes natural gas treatment facilities on the Carmel coast said in a statement that they had waged a three-year battle to have the natural gas facility placed on a rig at sea and that after the planning council rejected this option, three other land sites were suggested.

“The Ein Ayala option would bring the facility within hundreds of meters of Fureidis’ schools and the homes of Ein Ayala,” the group said in a statement. “The Hagit option would place the facility many kilometers from any community in the area and near existing infrastructure ‏(the power station‏).”

The group, the statement said, “will continue the fight to do most of the treatment at sea, with a small facility at Hagit, which does not pollute and is safe for people and the environment.”