06/12/2012 06:07
C’tee approves plans for power station despite ongoing protests about environmental, security concerns from area residents.

Hundreds of Be’er Tuviya and Kiryat Malachi residents protested outside the building housing the National Committee for Planning and Building on Monday after it approved plans for a new natural gas power plant in the region.

Despite ongoing protests about environmental and security concerns from area residents, the committee approved plans for the power station, with representatives from the Environmental Protection and Defense ministries abstaining from the vote, according to to Be’er Tuviya Regional Council. The project is slated to be developed by Triple-M Power Plants Ltd.

“I’m sorry that such critical decisions were made without examining in-depth the risks involved with establishing the facility in this sensitive area,” regional council head Dror Shor said in a statement released by his office. “We have not lost hope and we will continue to use all means at our disposal to shelve the plan.

I have said before and I say again, if a plant will be established here, it will be regretted for generations.”

The Regional Committee for Planning and Building is now expected to publish the details of the plans for the purpose of public objects, and then will be returned to the National Committee for Planning and Building and then the government for approval, according to the regional council.

On Sunday, Shor and Kiryat Malachi Mayor Chaim Steiner sent a letter to the National Committee for Planning and Building, demanding that all necessary environmental and health impact surveys on the region take place, noting that this would be the first power plant “so close to public receptors.”

Construction of a natural gas power plant in this region was first promoted six years ago when Shikun V’Binui subsidiary IPM intended to construct a 400-megawatt facility in cooperation with the company Gav Yam, according to the Be’er Tuviya Regional Council. The partners eventually backed out of the deal after encountering protests from the community, with Shikun V’Binui selling its shares to Triple M, the council said.

In March, after a barrage of Gazan rockets fell in the region, Be’er Tuviya residents launched a public campaign against the construction of the natural gas power plant, sending a petition to the High Court of Justice.

“This is the last place that a power plant should be established,” Shor had said.

In response to the power plant’s approval on Monday and the protests of the residents, Triple-M ensured that proper environmental protection measures would occur, calling the plans a “fitting balance among the national energy sector needs, environmental protection, preservation of planning and transparent and balanced public participation.”

“The advancement of energy production facilities based on natural gas are essential nationally,” the company said in a statement. “The transition to the use of natural gas instead of polluting fuel and coal will ensure significantly cheaper energy and an improved quality of life for all, while protecting the environment.”

The company ensured that the plant would be built according to the world’s most advanced, cleanest, safest and most aesthetic standards.

“We are convinced that the plant and that the arrival of gas to the region will attract additional plants to consume natural gas and will bring economic prosperity to Be’er Tuviya and Kiryat Malachi.”