SPNI's Policy - Leviathan Gas Rig

Dor Beach. Photo Tzvika El-Az

Over the last few weeks, Israeli residents and a few various (mostly local) environmental groups have been protesting the location of Leviathan gas reservoir rig, which is slated for construction about 10 kilometers from the shore.  The protestors, who have voiced their objections and called for the rig to be built at a much greater distance of 120 kilometers from the shore, have requested that SPNI provide its stance on this issue.  

As the leading, largest and oldest environmental protection organization in Israel, SPNI has worked to safeguard the marine environment and the public’s health, and we truly admire the residents and activists who have taken on this cause. In the battle for the implementation of rigorous environmental standards, SPNI stands as a strong and resolute partner, who firmly advocates for transparency and the inclusion of the public in the natural gas production process.  We will continue to work in cooperation with the relevant stakeholders and partners towards the adoption of these standards and norms by the state administration.  

That said, it is important to clarify that we do differ from the residents on the issue of the gas rig’s location.  While the campaign run by the residents hopes to push the rig 120 kilometers away from the shore, SPNI does not object to the proposed location, which is included in National Master Plan #37 that was completed following a planning process of several years.

Our campaign focusese on ensuring that gas production, whether located in Israel's economic water or territorial water, is performed utilizing proper and safe production practices, minimizing the danger to the public and the environment as much as possible.  Our stance is supported by additional environmental organizations, such as Eco Ocean and Adam Teva V’din, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Ministry for Environmental Protection. 

These three environmental organizations support shifting Israel's energy economy from fossil fuel to a combination of natural-gas and renewable energy sources, which are far less harmful to both humans and the environment.  Compared to coal and liquid fuel, natural gas carbon emission is lower, while its energy efficiency is higher.  The transition of Israel's energy economy to natural gas will decrease harmful air pollution substantially, rendering this shift a top public and environmental priority.

SPNI has always promoted a sustainable energy economy based primarily on green and renewable energy sources, such as solar power, but this process is advancing slowly and suffers from many bureaucratic and financial obstructions.  As such, natural gas is the best option currently available until energy production from sustainable resources can take hold on a wider scale. 

Before the coal-based power stations can be shut down, particularly the one located in Hadera, an alternative, safe and completely reliable station must be constructed.  SPNI believes that pushing the gas rig to a distant location at sea, where environmental regulations and enforcement is almost non-existent and certainly not transparent or shared with the public, would be irresponsible and threatens the marine environment and the public’s health. 

This issue is specifically important when discussing the Leviathan gas reservoir, which holds a large capacity and is strategically important to Israel's economy.  If the gas rig were to be pushed out to sea, the energy companies would be able to operate with little to no regulation, supervision or transparency.  We believe that allowing such a scenario to unfold would be a grave mistake and potentially carries a high environmental toll. 

It should be noted that the gas rig’s location and the decision that most of the gas treatment will be carried out at sea is the result of activity by the residents and environmental organizations, in accordance with Master Plan #37.  Over the course of many months, experts from the three environmental organizations assessed the potential hazards of severe environmental pollution and determined that the gas rig should be constructed at 10 kilometers from the shore.

It is our understanding, based on professional data, as well as analysis by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, that air pollution from the gas rig is expected to be low and within the acceptable standards.  Obviously, there will be some pollution, but the expectation is that it will be proportionate to the existing air pollution currently measured in many areas in Israel, as a result of other polluting sources.  As such, the predicted air pollution cannot justify displacing the rig, which is already in advanced stages of construction.

Additionally, relocating the gas rig would delay gas production from Leviathan reservoir for several years, and the current higher levels of air pollution derived from power production and industrial activity would remain the norm.  If construction were to stall, the government would abandon its decision to shut down the coal-based power stations in Hadera, which in turn will continue to pollute the area and harm the health of its residents.

While the expected air pollution in cases of malfunction might be higher, and there is a risk of the pollution exceeding the standards over the course of several hours or even days every year, we still maintain that this situation does not necessitate removing the rig entirely.  Rather, we believe that it is imperative to minimize the chances of malfunctions, increase enforcement, and improve monitoring and supervision, all of which will be possible because the rig is in the territorial waters of the state, and therefore subject to Israeli environmental legislation.  In the coming years, we will focus our activities on ensuring that these objectives will be put into effect appropriately.

Like the many other concerned parties, SPNI demands that the highest safety measures are employed from construction through production, and that the gas production process will be tightly monitored and supervised by both the government and the public.  We believe that Nobel Energy and its partners must assume full responsibility at every stage, strictly adhere to the environmental laws, and operate in complete transparency according to all standards.  We will not tolerate anything less.

At the same time, the state must enforce the most stringent regulations and most advanced monitoring tools possible to minimize environmental impact, including air and light pollution, harm to wildlife and the marine ecosystem, and the risk of leaks and fuel or oil spills.  Furthermore, the state must possess the ability to properly handle cases of pollution, spills and disasters.

Considering the great importance of utilizing natural gas as an energy source, and after weighing its many advantages compared to other, less environmentally friendly sources of energy, SPNI believes the gas rig should be constructed according to the approved plan, while complying with the highest environmental standards possible