Israel’s Home Front Minister Urges Cabinet to Reconsider Power Plant Planned Near Missile-exposed Town

The 450-megawatt natural gas power plant has already been approved but Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan says alternative locations where the potential risk is lower were not considered.

Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan has asked the cabinet to reconsider a decision by a ministerial committee to okay the construction of a power station near Kiryat Malachi. Erdan said the location is dangerous because it is too close to population centers and exposed to missile attacks.

Three weeks ago, the Ministerial Committee on Interior Affairs, Services and Local Government approved the 450-megawatt power station, which is to run on natural gas and is slated to be built in the Be’er Tuvia industrial zone. The facility had received the approval of the National Planning Commission’s National Infrastructures Planning Committee in February. It is to be built and operated by the IPM company.

In his appeal, which he submitted last week, Erdan argues that as far as he could determine, the plan was advanced without considering alternative locations where the potential risk is lower.

He noted that by law, an entity with a license to produce electricity must demonstrate it has an interest in the land before beginning the planning process. As a result, entrepreneurs seeking to get a license enter into an agreement with landowners before the planning process, which then makes the evaluation of alternative sites almost meaningless.

“It’s important to note that a commercial center that will attract masses of people is slated to go up adjacent to the area on which the power station is planned,” Erdan wrote in his appeal. He added: “At a time when the threat of missiles falling on Israel is gradually increasing, the role of the government is to make every effort to distance strategic infrastructures from the range of attack.”

Residents of the area have been battling against the power station for two years, and they held a demonstration against it Sunday at the Kastina junction. According to the residents, the plant will pose a risk to the environment should it malfunction or be hit by missiles − not only because of its proximity to residential and commercial areas, but because there are other factories in the area that also store dangerous substances, including ammonia.

The residents say there are alternative sites in the area that are farther away from the area’s towns while still being close to the gas pipeline. They also argue that building the power plant at the proposed site would do serious damage to Kiryat Malachi by reducing the demand for housing in the new neighborhoods slated to go up near the facility.

A few months ago the Interior Ministry appointed an investigator to evaluate the objections to the plan that came from various sources, including residents and the Be’er Tuvia Regional Council. The investigator, engineer Baruch Yoskovitz, submitted his report a few months ago in which he rebuffed most of the objections.

The panel, relying on Yoskovitz’s conclusions, said that the site had been chosen by the developers in accordance with the policy of the Environmental Protection Ministry, which had recommended the industrial zone as an appropriate place for a power station. The committee added that the power plant wouldn’t be any more attractive a target than other power plants.

“The existing factories in the region pose a risk to area residents because of the ammonia stored there and the authorities ought to deal with that, but this has nothing to do with erecting the power station,” the national panel ruled. The panel did, however, demand stricter levels of safety and protection for the gas pipeline.

IPM responded: “The energy installation known as Shibolim was approved by both the ministerial committee and the National Infrastructures Planning Committee, after it was found completely safe by all the relevant professionals in the government ministries. Around a month ago, the Home Front Command also determined that the plans for the installation met the highest standards. Therefore, Minister Erdan’s stance, which contradicts that of the professionals in his ministry, is puzzling.”

Yossi Weiss