Forget ‘hysteria,’ Leviathan gas gets Israel off coal, says environment minister

Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin says “hysteria” over the start of gas extraction from the Leviathan gas field earlier today was “unnecessary.”

His comments, in an interview with Army Radio, come after Environment Ministry figures show that the pollution levels from the gas platform off Israel’s northern coast were at predicted and safe levels.

Activists against the placement of a platform close to Israel’s shores have long argued it would cause dangerous levels of pollution in the sea and in the air.

Critics “accused me of bringing Chernobyl to Israel,” Elkin says, but insists the gas marks an environmental achievement for Israel, helping to steer Israel’s energy market away from coal.

“It’s also a tremendous economic boon for Israel. The money coming into the state coffers goes to defense, education, welfare, health – it’s a new source of income the State of Israel didn’t have before,” he says.

Elkin and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz toured the northern coastline today to keep a close eye on the start of the gas flow.

On Thursday, Steinitz is due to travel to Greece together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign an agreement on a pipeline to ship eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe.

“There’s reason to celebrate,” Elkin insists. “We just became an energy power.”

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