pollution - Nir Kafri - August 31 2010
Ramat Hovav. The larger companies are leading the change. Photo by Nir Kafri
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Industrial plants and other facilities - such as quarries, waste dump sites and water purification plans - will be required to report annually on the amount of pollution they emit and the amount of waste they transport elsewhere or treat on site, under a new government bill that comes up for discussion next week in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

The bill would create a pollution emission registry that would gather information from about 300 facilities in the country and make it public. If it is eventually approved by the Knesset, Israel would follow the lead of other developed countries that already have such registries in place.

The primary targets of the legislation are refineries, fertilizer factories and other chemical plants. Facilities covered by the law would have to provide information about a wide range of potential pollutants that may have been released into the environment, including some of the most dangerous, such as chlorine, cyanide and arsenic, as well as carcinogens such as formaldehyde and benzene. In recent years, Environmental Protection Ministry surveys have revealed the presence of such substances in the air, but without always being able to trace the source of the pollution.

The legislation is the initiative of the Environmental Protection Ministry, but a similar, somewhat more extensive bill has been proposed by a group of Knesset members headed by Dov Khenin (Hadash ) in cooperation with the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam, Teva V'Din in Hebrew ). The two bills may be consolidated.

The legislation is similar to existing laws in 39 other countries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which brings together the world's most developed economies, requires such legislation. Israel recently joined the organization.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said the law would provide an incentive for industry to reduce pollution emissions. Arye Wenger, of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, said the legislation proposed by his group would set a baseline against which future pollution levels could be measured and would also require collection of other data, such as electricity consumption and manpower at industrial plants to better gauge the relationship between the pollution created and the nature of the business.

The law would also require facilities to report on the use of polluting substances even if their use constitutes a commercial trade secret.

Wenger's group's law would require the Environmental Protection Ministry to release annual data on its major findings based on the information it collected from industry, along with other sources of pollution, such as car exhaust and pollution from fires. The legislation would also make the data collection part of a system through which particularly serious pollution in a specific area could be addressed. An air pollution alert could be declared in a specific location, for example, requiring that pollution levels be reduced.

In response, Yossi Aryeh, the director of the Israeli Institute of Energy and Environment, which represents the energy industry, said: "The bill is not based on criteria accepted in countries where similar legislation has been passed, and it leaves too wide an opening to the Environmental Protection Ministry to issue various directives." He said the bill would also impose new problematic fees on industry.