Israeli court halts Noble’s Leviathan gas project over environmental concerns

By Yaacov Benmeleh on 12/19/2019

TEL AVIV (Bloomberg) - An Israeli court issued a temporary injunction against the Leviathan project, a giant natural gas field led by Delek Drilling LP and Noble Energy Inc., out of concerns that it may endanger the health of the public.

Jerusalem’s district court ruled late Tuesday that the firms developing Leviathan are barred from pollutive activity until further notice, in effect halting operations. Israeli explorer Delek and Houston-based Noble, which own about 45% and 40% of the project respectively, were planning to start pumping gas to the local market within the coming days.

The Leviathan partners are reviewing the court’s decision “with the readiness and expectation of beginning gas flow as soon as possible,” a spokeswoman for Delek said in a statement. Noble didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The Israeli government hailed the discovery of Leviathan in 2010 as a key milestone to ensuring energy independence and a tool to bolster its geopolitical influence through major export deals. Several regulatory disputes bogged down the development of the reservoir, but the companies sped through the financing and building of the project once those issues were settled.

Environmental activists protested the platform’s location, some 10 kilometers (6 miles) off the coast, worried that it would send dangerous amounts of pollution to residential areas and cause a spike in sicknesses.

A handful of regional councils in the vicinity of Leviathan were among those that submitted the petition, requesting that the court order the cancellation of the firms’ emissions permit.

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