High Court Suspends Fracking in Golan Heights

Environmentalists, local residents object to oil drilling in seismically sensitive area.

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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Activists protest fracking in Golan Heights, June 2014.
Activists protest fracking in Golan Heights, June 2014.Credit: Dafna Laner
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday issued an interim injunction against construction of an experimental oil drilling rig in the Golan Heights. The injunction comes after the High Court issued a temporary injunction three weeks ago against the work following a petition by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam, Teva, V’Din) and residents of the Golan.

The High Court’s ruling states that Afek, the company working on the project, “will not be able to build installations of any kind or carry out work of any kind that changes the surface of the ground, within the boundaries of the area defined in the permit. The interim injunction will remain in force until another ruling.”

The date of a hearing on the matter will be decided over the next two months, the High Court ruling also said.

The permit for the experimental drilling was given a few months ago to Afek by the Regional Planning and Building Committee in the north. Afek is owned by the American energy company Genie, one of whose directors is former Housing Minister Effie Eitam. Eitam also heads IEI, the company that initiated the fracking project in the Judean lowlands, which was nixxed by the court.

In their petition to the High Court, the IUED and the Golan residents asked that the court immediately cancel the oil-drilling permits, arguing that they had been granted on the basis of insufficient facts, poor judgment and extreme unreasonableness.

The petition also claims that the type of oil in the area of the permit is “tight oil” – oil that is not in liquid form. Producing oil of this type requires special means, including the “splitting” of the rock using high-pressure injection of huge amounts of water and chemicals, mostly by the method known as fracking, according to expert opinions appended to the petition.

The petitioners say the drilling could lead to contamination of the water table and considerable movement of the earth, which is especially significant in a seismically sensitive area like the Golan Heights.

The regional water corporation Mei Golan submitted a response to the petition, also expressing its opposition to the project due to the implications for the region’s water supply.

According to IUED director Amit Bracha, oil drilling in the Golan Heights will be destructive to the environment and the High Court’s ruling shows that the justices believe it should be discussed very seriously before establishing facts on the ground.

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