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Environment minister targets energy minister’s plan to advance regional gas club

By questioning ratification of statutes that say nothing about climate change, Gila Gamliel ensures that role of East Med Gas Forum is discussed by the cabinet

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

An undated photo of Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (R) and Egyptian Petroleum Minister Tarek El-Molla speaking during a meeting of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, in Cairo, Egypt. (courtesy, Israeli Energy Ministry)
An undated photo of Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (R) and Egyptian Petroleum Minister Tarek El-Molla speaking during a meeting of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, in Cairo, Egypt. (courtesy, Israeli Energy Ministry)

Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel on Sunday threw a monkey wrench into the plans of Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and his Egyptian counterpart to create an Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum to advance regional interests in natural gas.

By expressing her reservations to the formal ratification of a September signing of statutes by the two nations, along with Jordan, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, and the Palestinian Authority, Gamliel ensured that the issue is brought before the cabinet for a full debate and decision.

Had she approved the ratification, no cabinet discussion would have been needed.

In a letter to the cabinet secretary, Gamliel wrote that despite the “critical impact” of natural gas on greenhouse gas emissions, the statutes said nothing about how the forum intends to help tackle the climate crisis.

“Clear expression must be given in the organization’s statutes to Israel’s international obligation to meet the targets of reducing emissions [within the framework of] climate agreements and the prime minister’s declarations on the subject.”

Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel. (Courtesy, Environmental Protection Ministry)

She concluded, “I ask for a formal discussion to be held by the full cabinet and for the prime minister and all the ministers to address this issue.”

Also on Sunday, the Carmel Beach Regional Authority in northern Israel announced that it would return a $480,000 donation received from the natural gas company Energean Israel.

Energean Israel, a subsidiary of the Greek company Energean, owns the franchise to the Karish and Tanin natural gas fields, due to start commercial production next year. It is currently exploring for additional oil and gas reserves in the area.

The authority’s decision followed two court petitions submitted by the environmental group Home Guardians and the intervention of the Interior Ministry’s regional director.

The coastal authority is responsible for monitoring rogue emissions from offshore natural gas production facilities and was initially unwilling to accept that taking a donation from one of the principal gas companies could potentially cause it a conflict of interest.

Illustrative. An Energean floating production and storage rig. (Courtesy)

Energean Israel was meanwhile slapped with a NIS 878,000 ($270,000) fine by the Environmental Protection Authority on Sunday for violating its permit on waste flushed out to sea by one its exploratory drilling vessels.

The fine is one of a series imposed recently on natural gas companies for flouting their commitments on air and water pollution.

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