Jerusalem District Court Orders Temporary Suspension of Operations at Leviathan Gas Field

Israel

Photo Credit: Marc Israel Sellem / POOL

Israel’s Leviathan gas field gas processing rig near the Israeli city of Caesarea. January 31, 2019

The Jerusalem District Court has ordered a temporary suspension of operations at the Leviathan gas field.

The order was issued Tuesday (Dec. 17) in a temporary injunction granted by Judge Eli Abarbanel to the municipalities of Zichron Yaakov, Jisr az-Zarqa, Megiddo, Pardes Hanna-Karkur and Emek Hefer, and the Zalul environmental NGO.

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The local communities and environmentalists contend that poisonous emissions from Leviathan will cause irreversible damage to public health if operations from the gas field are not stopped.

Israel Approves Gas Export to Egypt Before the Leviathan Offshore Rig Becomes Operational

But the timing of the court action is awkward, to say the least: Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz has just approved Israeli exports of natural gas to Egypt from the Tamar and Leviathan natural gas fields, ahead of the expected completion of the Leviathan gas rig and first drilling at the rig planned for later this month. Steinitz said his approval of Israeli gas exports marks the first time in the county’s history in which it is an energy exporter.

In his decision to temporarily freeze the permit for operations involving gas emissions that was granted by the Ministry of Environmental Protection to the gas field, Abarbanel wrote that the Ministry and the Nobel Energy firm that operates the gas field did not succeed in the effort to disprove the plaintiff’s claim that Leviathan would cause irreversible damage to public health if operations were not stopped.

As a result, the court prevented Noble Energy from launching the third stage of operations at Leviathan, in which the lawsuit claims that poisonous emissions that would usually only be permitted over a period of 16 months or more, would instead be emitted within a period of eight hours, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“The Leviathan partners have received the decision of the honorable court and are studying it, with readiness and intention to flow gas from Leviathan as soon as possible,” the Leviathan partners said in a statement.

A hearing on the matter is to be held on Sunday, Dec. 22.

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