After Massive Oil Spill, Class Action Suit Planned Against Netanyahu, Pipeline Company

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Oil spill at Evrona Nature Reserve. Photos Eliyahu Hershkovitz

A group of Arava residents and environmentalists say they plan to file a class action suit against the state and the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company for the oil pollution in the Evrona nature reserve.

The group submitted a request to the Jerusalem District Court this week to file the suit, which is directed against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, senior treasury officials and the pipeline company. The plaintiffs demand that the respondents pay 246 million shekels ($62.8 million) for the damage they caused by the massive crude oil spill, as well as for the reserve’s rehabilitation, supervision and the prevention of such occurrences in the future.

Some 5 million liters of crude oil spilled from a breached pipeline in southern Israel earlier this month in an incident an Environmental Protection Ministry official called “one of the gravest pollution events in Israel’s history.”

The request for the class action suit was submitted by attorneys Hagit Helmer, Asaf Pink, Haya Erez and Iris Han. The group they represent consists of southern Arava residents who claim they have been subjected to serious odor and pollution hazards, in addition to emotional and mental stress resulting from the extensive damage to the landscape and nature they’re attached to.

The environmentalists in the group include Professor Alon Tal, one of the founders of the social-environmentalist political party the Green Movement and founder of Adam Teva V’Din, Israel’s Union for Environmental Defense.

The plaintiffs hold the Finance Ministry, which is in charge of the pipeline company, responsible for the leak. Hence the request was directed personally against the prime minister, who is currently acting finance minister. The suit is also against Michal Abadi-Boiangiu, the Finance Ministry’s accountant general, who is supposed to supervise the pipeline company.

The group argues that the ministry officials failed in that duty.