The Northern District Planning Commission decided Thursday not to give permission for oil drilling on the Golan Heights. The Commission is withholding permits to begin drilling operations until it receives a professional environmental impact statement on the effects of drilling.
The decision came after a lengthy eight hour meeting Thursday, in which hundreds of residents raised objections to the drilling by several companies.
The residents said that drilling would endanger the water sources of the Kinneret that flow through the Golan. In addition, the process would dump tons of chemicals, which would end up in the Kinneret, they said.
Afek, the company holding a permit for the drilling program, promised that it would not use unconventional drilling methods like fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which entails the extraction of oil from shale rocks by apply high levels of pressure, to extract oil.
The process utilizes water, combined with sand and chemicals, to remove oil from the rocks. Generally, the residue is left where the fracking takes place – a situation that worries many Golan residents.
Commercial drilling operations are supposed to start in August. According to geologists, some $1 billion can be realized from the sale of oil extracted in the Golan.
Some ten areas have been marked for drilling, with exploratory wells set to be drilled to a depth of up to 1,200 meters (4,000 feet). If oil is discovered, the company said it will devise a method to extract the oil without impacting the environment.
Activists said they were pleased with the court's decision.
“The chemicals and gas that will leach into the water table if drilling is allowed will end up in the Kinneret and endanger residents and the millions of tourists who visit the Golan,” said one activist. “The decision was the proper one.”