Ministry of Finance officials are proposing to step up major infrastructure projects by limiting the Ministry of Environmental Protection's role in planning, limiting the public's right of appeal, and allowing the Treasury to override the forestry commissioner of the Ministry of Agriculture for not allowing the felling of protected or mature trees. Environmental advocates point out that these and other moves will not only undermine public oversight, but also go against the government's stated goal - to adhere to a Climate Act - to halve global warming emissions by the end of the decade. The country is already behind the target. It was generating 9.2 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2022, the Knesset Economic Committee heard last month. The recommendations are contained in the National Infrastructure Bill, which forms part of the Economic Regulations Bill that accompanies the state budget. The Finance Ministry said the goal is to "remove bureaucratic and regulatory barriers" and accelerate infrastructure projects in areas such as transport, electricity and renewable energy. Get The Times of Israel's Daily Edition by email and never miss our top stories Get the email By signing up, you agree to the terms His plan also includes allowing polluting power plants to evade clean air legislation, and allowing construction companies working on major infrastructure projects to make significant noise around the clock, and in some cases exceed decibel levels permitted by law. Tammy Ganot, Deputy CEO of environmental advocacy organization Adam Teva V'Din, described the infrastructure bill as "a declaration of war against environmental and climate management in Israel." The Economic Regulations Law, of which the infrastructure proposals are a part, envisages 55 reforms in many areas of life, over 226 pages. Advertising The bill should be finalized by Thursday, February 23, and put on the table for first debate in the Knesset by March 31, leaving little time for discussion. Together with the state budget, the bill must be enacted by 29 May. The draft infrastructure bill attributes project delays to the involvement of too many organizations and ministries. It proposes that the government, on the advice of the finance minister, select up to 10 priority national infrastructure projects. The proposed criteria for selecting them range from serving a "large population" to "urgently needed" or "expected to face significant obstacles". Among the proposed solutions to accelerate the implementation of these projects are: Replacing Ministry of Environmental Protection representatives in national and regional planning committees with special environmental consultants appointed by the committees. Forcing the Forestry Commissioner to consider not only the environmental aspects of felling trees, but also the damage to the contractor and the increase in costs if a felling permit is delayed. According to the proposal, the commissioner cannot refuse permission to remove protected or mature trees, unless the director general of the Ministry of Finance or the ministry responsible for the project himself thinks otherwise. Eliminate the need for detailed plans or even maps of proposed priority infrastructure projects and exempt 'innovative' pilot infrastructure projects from any need for plans or permits. Removing the right of the National Committee for the Protection of the Coastal Environment to examine the impact of national infrastructure plans on natural landscapes and heritage near the Mediterranean, Red Sea or Sea of ​​Galilee. Prohibition of local planning committee chairs or engineers from issuing work stoppage orders without the approval of national enforcement officials in violation of planning laws or laws governing hygiene or work permits. Unless there are at least three members of the government or only one member from the prime minister, the cabinet secretary automatically enrolls normal infrastructure plans approved by the government 14 days after receiving them authorization, prompting the plan to be submitted to government discussion. Discussion on national priority infrastructure projects will not be allowed under the proposals. Appeals against regional planning committees will no longer be a right, but will be subject to approval by the regional planning committee chairman. Allowing the Israel Electric Company to allow polluting power plants to circumvent the Clean Air Act "for the shortest time possible... to ensure continuity of supply". The bill says that the Ministry of Environmental Protection will prepare the necessary regulations, subject to the approval of the energy minister. Always allow noisy construction works up to the maximum level determined by law in priority infrastructure projects in settlements and allow noise levels to rise above the allowable during certain hours. The Ministry of Environmental Protection is battling two proposals in particular. A statement released Wednesday said that allowing the Clean Air Act to be circumvented could cause serious harm to public health and air quality, and was also unnecessary. This was because the emission permits issued by the ministry under the law did not affect the electricity supply. Advertising The ministry also condemned the "extreme" attempt to exclude professional staff from national and regional planning committees, saying that banning such independent consultants would inevitably lead to "uncontrolled and unbalanced development". He continued: "Behind every EPA consultant are hundreds of professionals in all environmental fields." Most of them have advanced degrees and have specific areas of expertise, and together they offer a breadth and depth that no private counselor can offer. The ministry also warned that allowing planning committees to appoint private environmental consultants would pose a risk of conflict of interest, given that such consultants also work for private companies and sometimes represent these companies in appeals to plans. The ministry said the move would leave excessive authority in the hands of planning committees, which would initiate and approve infrastructure plans under proposals and employ environmental consultants. He added that the answer is to add budget and staff to make the ministry work faster. He said he was surprised at the proposal to privatize consultants, considering that he agreed last year with the Finance Ministry's Budget Office that he would receive additional funding to employ external environmental consultants as part of the 2023-2024 budget. On behalf of the Ministry and under its guidance. The ministry, which it described as good news, announced on Wednesday that, after talks with the Ministry of Finance, a new article will be added to the bill to grant emissions allowances to auto importers. This will force them to gradually increase the number of electric cars brought in. The ministry also said the Treasury acknowledged that noise proposals needed to be softened, but details were not immediately available. Adam Teva V'Din accused him of failing to examine or map all the real reasons why infrastructure projects were delayed, such as budget deficits, staff shortages, and lack of coordination between relevant agencies. Advertising Tammy Ganot, the organization's Deputy CEO, told The Times of Israel: "The draft National Infrastructure Bill that the government wants to promote using the expedited mechanism of the Economic Regulations Act is a declaration of war against environmental and climate governance in Israel. "Many of the items are vague, ambiguous and open to misinterpretation." Ganot said, among other things, that the provisions of the bill would limit the public's ability to know and participate in decision-making about major development projects that will affect their lives. It will also adversely affect the economy and quality of life by allowing the continued or increased use of fossil fuels and the uprooting of trees in the age of climate change. State budgets for 2021 and 2022 were adopted in November 2021 after the three-year lockdown underfunded many government projects. The next budget will cover the years 2023 and 2024. Public comments on the Draft Law on Economic Regulations can be submitted until 22 February 2023 at 2.