Gilad Erdan- Michal Fattal
Gilad Erdan Photo by Michal Fattal
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The government is due to approve a series of economic measures today recommended by the Trajtenberg Committee, including a proposal to allow for more gas stations to be built as a means for lowering fuel costs.

The proposal, one of a package aimed at broadening competition in the market to counter Israel's high cost of living, would ease regulatory measures to expedite the establishment of more stations, which would then increase competition and lead to lower fuel costs.

The move has met strong opposition from Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who argues it will harm the environment and public health.

The proposal calls for the cancellation of some of the restrictions for setting up small gas stations. These are primarily regulations which restrict the area on which a gas station may be built.

In addition, the proposal calls for gas stations to be built along highways less than 20 kilometers apart. There are no such regulations in place at this time, and on the Route 6, for example, there are currently only two gas stop islands along its 140 kilometers.

In the support material for the proposal, it states that increasing the number of gas stations, especially in the periphery, will increase competition between fuel companies, and allow entry into the market for new companies, which would result in lower prices.

According to the report, the main elements blocking such development are complex and drawn-out planning regulations.

In a letter to the government secretariat, Erdan stated that it is not just new gas stations that are problematic, but also the various stores and restaurants that accompany such developments, which will harm open spaces.

Erdan also says that more gas stations will also increase the risk of pollution to the groundwater supply as a result of leaks - a problem in most existing gas stations, even those that follow safety regulations to the letter.

"The proposal will lead to the irresponsible dispersal of gas stations along roads without any genuine reason for competition, but will create planning and environmental problems," Erdan wrote.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel also attacked the proposal and said that there are sufficient gas stations already.