After years of opposition to the plan, local council heads back land-based natural gas treatment facilities,
By Zafrir Rinat | Nov.15, 2012

Local council heads in the Carmel coast region have for the first time come out in support of the idea of land-based natural gas treatment facilities, after years of opposition to the plan. Over the past three years, the mayors have been waging a major public battle against the establishment of natural gas treatment facilities at points along the Carmel coast, including the Dor power station and Moshav Ein Ayala near Zichron Ya’akov.

The mayors had previously opposed any land-based facilities, and insisted that all such treatment be carried out offshore, bringing the gas to land by pipeline.

Planning was stopped at the time due to the mayors’ opposition, while the feasibility of the facilities, where gas is treated before it can be used to produce electricity, was being reconsidered.

However, it turns out that the National Planning and Building Council is unwilling to forgo the land-based facilities, and so the mayors agreed to reconsider their position. This week, the head of the Hof HaCarmel Regional Council and the mayors of Zichron Ya’akov and Fureidis informed Prime Minister’s Office Director General Harel Locker that they support the construction of gas treatment facilities of the type now operating at the Hagit site near the rural community of Bat Shlomo in the Mount Carmel region.

The site would be adjacent to the Hagit natural-gas electricity plant east of Bat Shlomo, and would receive the gas from the Dor beach area via a pipeline that would run along the edge of the Carmel range. The site is still within the jurisdiction of the Hof HaCarmel Regional Council, but not as close to its communities as another alternative that would place it close to Kibbutz Dor and Moshav Ein Ayala.

Public opposition to the construction of the natural gas treatment facilities is based on concerns over a mishap or a wartime strike.

The council head and the mayors said they still supported the idea that most of the treatment of the natural gas takes place on a rig at sea, but added: “In light of the urgent need for a land-based location for the facility to receive the gas, we view the alternative of a facility adjacent to the Hagit power station as the right and only alternative in the region. This alternative holds the correct balance between protecting the lives of the region’s residents, protecting the environment, the principle of adjacent infrastructure facilities and the reliability of the energy sector.”

This contradicts the position of the Interior Ministry’s planning team working on a national master plan for natural gas treatment facilities. The team determined that the establishment of such a facility adjacent to Hagit is possible, but less preferable to other alternatives such as Dor, Ein Ayala or even the Hefer Valley area of the eastern coastal plain, because the environmental damage at Hagit is expected to be greater.

A report compiled recently by the Interior Ministry’s planning team notes that a pipeline along the edge of the Carmel range to Hagit will damage trees, while a natural gas treatment facility at Hagit would damage flora and fauna and may affect spring water in the area. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has also come out against the Hagit alternative due to potential ecological damage.