Residents Gear Up for Fracking Fight on Golan

Local activists ask High Court of Justice to suspend permit process for exploratory oil drills using controversial method.

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
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Illustration: Oil field, North Dakota, U.S.
Illustration: Oil field, North Dakota, U.S.Credit: Bloomberg
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

Residents of the Golan Heights are trying to stop plans to begin exploratory oil drilling in the area, using the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique popularly known as fracking. The state has already granted an exploration license to Afek Oil and Gas, but the plan to drill 10 exploratory wells requires additional government approval.

Anti-fracking activists have formed an action committee, and this week they petitioned the High Court of Justice to suspend the permit application process.

Dozens of people who live in the Golan Heights attended a hearing held Thursday by the Northern District Planning and Building Committee on the proposal. The panel did not vote on the plan, instead deciding to seek additional information and to reconvene.

In their petition, filed on their behalf by the Shavit Bar-On Gal-On Tzin Yagur law firm, the residents argue that because Afek may employ fracking, the licensing procedure should be more stringent. They say the technique, which involves using pressurized liquid to fracture deep-rock formations, allowing petroleum to migrate to the well, poses a serious contamination hazard to water sources in the area, and the customary evaluation procedure is inadequate.

The petitioners cite an opinion issued by the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute, according to which the use of fracking in the Golan Heights could contaminate the sources of Lake Kinneret.

Afek said in a response that it will respond to the High Court petition as required. Afek is proud to spearhead the national oil exploration project in the Golan. Finding a significant oil reserve in the Golan is a mission of great importance to Israel, the company said.

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