Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Wednesday that Israel's newly online Leviathan field is now supplying gas to Jordan, as he rapped residents of the north for "baseless, hysterical" fears that the fully operational rig would cause harmful pollution.
"And thus Israel has become an energy exporter for the first time in its history," Steinitz told Ynet, although Israel's Tamar gas field has been exporting gas to Jordan for the past two years after signing an agreement in 2014.
"It is happening right now at this moment and I am announcing here for the first time that at this moment Israel is becoming a gas exporter to Jordan. Another week, 10 days - to Egypt," Steinitz said.
After a series of delays, natural gas began to flow Tuesday afternoon from Israel's Leviathan rig off the coast of Haifa.
"When I formulated the gas deal about five years ago, I said that during my tenure there would be no situation in which Leviathan [gas rig] would remain stuck out at sea while we continued to die from the air pollution from coal and I was told I was mistaken," Steinitz said Wednesday.
"When I stated at a High Court hearing that there might be gas exports to Egypt and Jordan, they said I was misleading the judges. So Leviathan was developed and air pollution is already starting to decline and will be drastically reduced thanks to Leviathan's development.
"The next two years will see the closure of the coal power station in Hadera and then the one in Ashkelon. Tens of billions of dollars in revenue will also reach us in the coming years," he said.
Steinitz also took a swipe at the residents along the coast close to the rig, who vacated their homes during the emission of gases before Leviathan came online.
"There was completely baseless, unnecessary hysteria that I had never seen before. It is not even worth discussing. There are thousands of such facilities in Europe and the U.S. - communities were never evacuated because of them," he said.
The mammoth gas treatment facility has given rise to concerns of worried citizens, fearing polluting emissions from the gas rig will pose a possible threat to their health and the environment.
Leviathan's first two gas wells were opened at 2am and began pushing pollutants out of the pipeline as part of a flushing process.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection said Tuesday afternoon that the major part of the process was carried out between 3.20pm and 4.30pm, during which time large quantities of carbon, including benzene, were emitted.
According to ministry data, the actual volume of emissions from the rig was significantly lower than the quantities predicted in an assessment before the process began.
"The ministry is monitoring the rate of hydrocarbon emissions on the rig and the concentrations measured at the onshore monitoring stations," it said.
The gas will also supply to the Electric Corp, and from Wednesday Israeli consumers were expected to see a 4.13% reduction in tariffs as a result.