A new report by the Zalul Environmental Association warns that the government's lax guidelines regarding oil and gas drilling permits
in the Mediterranean Sea
may prove disastrous, Ynet has learned.
"The government of Israel is taking an enormous financial and environmental risk by allowing the gas and oil companies to drill in the Mediterranean prior to setting clear regulations in the field, without having the proper enforcement capabilities and without putting in place a national contingency plan mean to deal with the event of a leak," the report said.
These deficiencies expose both the state and the public's pension funds – which are invested, to an extent, in such ventures – to the risk of having to pay for the results of a leak, such as contamination cleanup, damages for casualties and possible legal action by other nations, whose waters may be affected in case of a leak.
The report, which was prepared by regulation specialist Attorney Tomer Meiraz, compared the regulation and legislation in countries like the United States, Britain, Norway and Sweden, some of which have experienced drill sites disasters over the past few years. It suggests the Israel reviews the mistakes made by them and the solution implemented.
The report outlines the rigorous list of demands entrepreneurs in the countries are required to meet before being given drilling permits – a system which currently does not exist in Israel.
Furthermore, it warns that Israel has no maritime disaster contingency plan, not does it require entrepreneurs to demonstrate they have one.
The report advises adopting and implementing a streamlined process, including the separation of authorities customary in the US and UK as to royalties; and the Danish regulation, which promotes transparency and tight supervision and enforcement.
Is also advises against adopting the American regulation system, which it deems as cumbersome.
The report further recommends imposing all regulation and enforcement fees on the entrepreneurs themselves, in an effort to prevent them from becoming a liability of the State budget.
The report said that previous attempts to promote relevant legislation were rejected by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, and warns the subjecting the entire process of regulation and enforcement to one ministry – the Energy and Water Ministry – is erroneous.
"The State must update the legislation before it is too late," Zalul's report declared.
Zalul Director Maya Jacobs said that the group "Has been trying for months to convince the government to take some brave steps and suspend the drilling projects pending the formulation of proper regulation and legislation."
Zalul's recommendations to set in place a temporary regulation system – so not to impede the industry – have so far been rejected, she said.
"We all dream of realizing the potential wealth of the drilling: The entrepreneurs, the operators, the investors, shareholders, the government and even the public, which can envision how Israel's breaks free of its dependency on oil," the report said.
"But we cannot forget – not for one moment – that this is a risky adventure that can turn from a sweet financial dream to a haunting environmental nightmare. An environmental disaster… would sink not only the entrepreneurs' hopes, but also the beaches, tourism, the fishing industry, maritime transportation, the desalination projects and the power industry… As well as cost the government and the public a fortune in damages."