Over 2,000 people rallied in Tel Aviv Saturday evening to uge the government to shelve plans for an offshore gas processing facility slated to be built 10 kilometers from the coast.
Environmentalists, local authorities, and NGOs are waging a campaign to have the platform moved 125 kilometers (78 miles) away from the coast, citing environmental and public health concerns.
Protesters led by volunteer group Shomrei Habayit called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz to “stop the catastrophe” and reverse the government decision.
The protesters say the platform, to be located off Dor Beach near Caesarea, could cause major air pollution, and a malfunction at the site could leak toxic byproducts, harming beaches, marine life and residents living near the coast south of Haifa.
The platform is planned to process gas from the Leviathan offshore field, a bonanza estimated to hold 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, making it the country’s richest gas find. After extraction, raw natural gas must be processed to separate the dry gas used by power plants to run their turbines from two other main components — condensate and waste water, both of which contain dangerous and carcinogenic by-products.
The Energy Ministry says the close-to-shore platform was chosen “after many tests, an environmental impact assessment and the considerations of the security establishment.”
Last month, The Times of Israel learned that the State Comptroller was investigating the government’s claim that security concerns necessitated the platform being close to the coast.
Shomrei Habayit accused Noble Energy, the US company developing Leviathan, of having a poor environmental track record.
Activists have pointed to a processing plant for the Tamar gas field, located 14 kilometers off the coast of Ashkelon, as a harbinger of what the new platform may bring.
Data for 2016, published by the ministry in November 2017, shows that emissions from Tamar that are “known or suspected to be carcinogenic” equaled the total of such emissions from 570 large industrial plants across the country.
Activists have been holding near daily protests at beaches to draw attention to the cause. However experts say the plan may be too far along to be reversed.
Built in the United States, the processing platform is due to arrive off-shore in December, and its legs are to be lowered into the sea the following month 9.7 kilometers (6 miles) from the popular Dor Beach, north of Caesarea. Production is due to start a year later.
Sue Surkes contributed to this report.