Israel Tells Court It Won’t Revoke UAE Oil Pipeline Deal, but Might Set Restrictions

Environmental Protection Ministry says will reserve the right to restrict volume of oil handled

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
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People on the Eilat waterfront near the Europe-Asia Pipeline Company oil jetty, in August.
People on the Eilat waterfront near the Europe-Asia Pipeline Company oil jetty, in August.Credit: Noa Siti Eliyahu/AP
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

The state told the High Court of Justice on Thursday that it will not block an agreement the Europe Asia Pipeline Company made with an Emirati firm to transport more oil through Eilat and Ashkelon ports. But it also said the Environmental Protection Ministry reserved the right to restrict the volume of oil transported through Israel.

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The statement was made in response to a petition filed by environmentalists urging the court to block the agreement. The Society for the Protection of Nature, Zalul and Adam Teva V’Din demanded the revocation of the agreement because it had not been approved by the government, and due to the harsh repercussions its implementation could have on the marine environment and the beaches, in case of an oil leak.

The EAP signed the agreement about a year ago and its implementation is expected to significantly increase the volume of oil transported through Israel to various world markets.

The Environmental Protection Ministry recently said it will not increase the amount of oil EAP may transport, in keeping with the toxins permit it had been given, which determines the maximum amount of hazardous substance any company may keep. The ministry’s decision stems from experts’ opinion that the Eilat gulf should not be burdened with an additional risk.

The ministry also rejected EAP’s emergency plan to deal with sea pollution. The plan’s approval was a condition of expanding the scope of oil transportation.

According to the EAP’s business license and toxins permit, only six oil tankers may dock in the company’s ports every year, carrying a load of oil that doesn’t exceed two million tons. Implementing the new agreement would lead to the transport of 30 tankers a year, carrying tens of millions of tons of oil.

The EAP intends to fight in court against the Environmental Protection Ministry’s policy. In a letter the company’s lawyers sent the ministry’s director general last month, they claimed the ministry’s restrictions exceed its authority. The ministry is not authorized to determine the scope of EAP’s activity, but only to set the terms the company must fulfill to maintain environmental demands, it said.

The ministry’s legal advisor Dalit Dror wrote in response that no one has “a reserved right to operate a business in any scope it wants, insofar as it could have repercussions on the environment and the public.”

Dror wrote that the ministry’s zero-added-risk policy is customary in other countries, such as the United States and Canada. Those two states imposed restrictions on the movement of oil tankers in environmentally sensitive regions, she wrote.

The EAP commented that “after months of slander and groundless arguments against the agreement, the state’s position in its response to the High Court of Justice, in the name of all the respondent ministries, proves again that the EAP has been and is operating in keeping with the law and the state agencies’ instructions and in cooperation with them. Also, that the Med Red contract and its implementation is part of the company’s core routine activity since its foundation.”

EAP also said “the clear and firm position of the Finance Ministry and Israel Corporations Authority is that the EAP acted as it was expected to, to develop the company’s business activity with international clients. And also that the agreement has significant geopolitical and economic advantages for Israel and its citizens.”

The company said it would “preserve the environment, and nature and marine assets ... with all means at its disposal and in keeping with instructions of the relevant officials.”

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