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    Green groups aim to stop offshore drilling project
    Society for Protection of Nature in Israel, Nature and National Parks Service say planned 'Gabriella' project will disrupt maritime reservation; say other alternatives available

    The Society for Protection of Nature in Israel, the Israel Nature and National Parks Service and several other green groups have filed petitions against a gas exploration project planned off the coast of Herzliya, saying it will disrupt a maritime reservation.

     

    The petitions, filed with the Tel Aviv Zoning Committee – which has jurisdiction in the matter – say that the company heading the project, which has been dubbed "Gabriella," has failed to explore all other alternatives.

     

    "On the surface, the Gabriella project is cut from the same cloth as dozens of other exploration projects taking place off Israel's shores, but it is different since it aims to drill in the midst of an area which has been earmarked as a maritime reservation," the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel's petition said.

     

    The company, it argued, opted for the "easy drilling option, rather than explore alternatives that would protect the environment." According to SPNI's brief, "The Environmental Protection Ministry's environmental impact reports were set aside in favor of a Water and Energy Ministry report, which failed to explore any alternatives."

     

    Attorney Noa Yayon of SPNI said that "The entire ocean has been divvied up… but we have to decide that we want to protect the ocean's ecosystems as well – Israel is obligated to do so under several international treaties."

     

    "This isn't just a question of placing a reef versus stock prices," NNPS marine ecologist Dr. Ruth Yahel added. "The State of Israel cannot afford not to declare and protect maritime reservations."

     

    The Zalul environmental group also filed a petition against the project, focusing on both the damaged to the area's ecosystem and the fact that the government has yet to put in place a contingency in case of a leak.

     

    The petitions urge the committee to defer giving the project a permit pending the exploration of all alternative in the matter.

     

    In early December, the Environmental Protection Ministry allotted NIS 22 million (roughly $6 million) for the creation of an offshore leak contingency plan.

     

    The ministry aims to set up two maritime pollution prevention stations in Haifa and Ashkelon, as well as buy two ships that can be dispatched to deal with incidents of pollution.

     

     

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