Comptroller warns government must stop ecological disaster from natural gas extraction and ensure resources benefit whole population.

The Energy and Water Ministry and the government as a whole must take the necessary steps regarding the country’s search and extraction of its natural gas resources off the coast “without any further delay,” both “budgetary and organizational,” State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said on Tuesday.

This is necessary to “prevent a large ecological disaster” in the Mediterranean Sea, he said in a report.

Shapira added that such a disaster would be multifaceted and substantially “impact the environment, health and the economy” for individual citizens and for the nation as a whole.

The comptroller said that the natural gas, only discovered in the state’s coastal waters in 2004, is a critical and relatively cheap source of energy.

He complimented the Energy and Water Ministry for taking initial steps to capitalize on using the gas in a way which will most benefit the country.

Shapira added, however, that the steps taken “were not enough” and were moving forward “at too slow a pace,” in terms of safety and of meeting the country’s immediate energy demands.

He expressed concern that the state was not encouraging enough competition surrounding the search and extraction of the gas, with one supplier monopolizing the issue.

To truly look out for the state’s energy independence, the “best interests of the entire population” over the “long term” in terms of “the environment and economically,” as opposed to the narrower interests of the supplier or a particular interest group, the state needed to develop a set vision that the current supplier and any future ones would need to follow, he said.

Shapira’s statements wove seamlessly into the overall vision of Thursday’s report on a myriad of issues and of his term as comptroller, namely, that all state activities, economic, environmental or otherwise, should be viewed from the perspective of how they can most benefit “all Israeli citizens,” especially those who are unable to advocate for themselves.

In a separate section of the report, the comptroller said the government had failed to implement warnings from previous reports, and cabinet decisions regarding moving forward with securing and safeguarding dangerous substances held by government and business establishments around the country.

A report in 2004 noted the issue and a cabinet decision in 2008 instructed the Energy and Water Ministry (then the National Infrastructure Ministry) to be the central coordinator of securing the dangerous substances, but that no substantive progress has been made.

In two other sections of the same report, Shapira noted the problem of “pirate [natural] gas stations” (suppliers selling without the proper licenses and credentials) and of improperly supervised use of natural gas, which not only harms the economy, but has led to many incidents causing property damage and even death.

There were around 100 “pirate fuel stations” in 2012 and a large number of other illegal establishments for selling gas, only 28 of which the Interior Ministry succeeded in closing, Shapira said.

With sales of gas in those and other unsupervised contexts, from 2009 to 2012, there were 8,785 accidents following the use of gas illegally or without following proper safety procedures, leading to leaks, explosions, asphyxiation, and poisoning, said the report.

In 2012 alone, there were such 4,752 incidents, the report noted.