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Environment Protection Minister Gilad Erdan yesterday said he would halt plans to build a new coal-fired power station in Ashkelon and would bring planning in line with global trends to scale back fossil fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

Erdan asked the cabinet secretary to raise his proposal to freeze the plan's approval procedure at the cabinet session. He also said the infrastructure minister should come up with a power-producing plan based on the latest developments, including the discovery of new gas fields off Israel's shores.

The Environmental Protection Ministry had already objected to building the coal power station four years ago because of the air pollution it would cause and greenhouse gases it would emit.

The plans went ahead regardless of the ministry's objections.

Erdan says the recently discovered natural gas fields could cover a significant part of Israel's energy consumption. He said the power production in the existing power stations should be increased and that building the coal-based station should be postponed, because in the meantime new technologies may develop to build power stations that cause less air pollution.

All the environmental organizations issued statements supporting Erdan's decision yesterday, but National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau warned of an energy shortage unless the project is advanced.