The National Infrastructure Committee intends to exempt the Europe Asia Pipeline Company (formerly the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline) from conducting an environmental impact survey of its installation in Ashkelon, sparking backlash from activist groups in Israel who are citing several serious incidents caused by the pipeline.
This move by the committee would mean that many of the pipeline's functions would go unreported, and therefore unregulated by authorities.
The Association of Cities for the Environment called on the committee to require an environmental survey, and noted that it was needed considering the number of environmental concerns regarding the pipeline in recent years.
The law under which the pipeline company operates was changed four years ago, now requiring that a company must draft plans for all its assets, including the pipe installation in Ashkelon, which they submitted accordingly for approval by the National Infrastructure Committee. Ashkelon has existing storage space for large quantities of oil, cooking gas and propylene, as well as an oil-offloading dock.
The head of the National Infrastructure Committee’s environmental team, Dr. Orit Nir, recommended that the oil pipeline company receive an exemption from the need to file an environmental impact statement three months ago. The plan was unusual because it dealt mostly with an existing situation and no significant changes were made to the plans, Nir said.
Nir added that over the years the company had undertaken many tests and surveys on the environmental impact of its work, and had submitted a comprehensive report on the environmental impact of nine new fuel tanks.
According to Nir, the only significant environmental issue not checked was the marine environmental risk, and, therefore, she recommended preparing an examination of this issue. The approval process is moving ahead without a comprehensive environmental study.
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The Association of Cities for the Environment has vehemently rejected the National Infrastructure Committee’s position. The association’s director, Meital Amitay, asked the director-general of the Environmental Protection Ministry, David Yahalomi, to order an environmental survey as a condition for advancing the plan.
“Limiting the environmental assessment only to marine risks is not consistent with the fact that this national infrastructure of huge proportions, with very extensive potential environmental impact, especially when this infrastructure includes dozens of fuel tanks, fuel lines and fuel loading and offloading docks. This is all at a distance of only 570 meters from Ashkelon’s southern neighborhoods,” Amitay wrote.
Amitay noted that the Europe Asia Pipeline Company had never been required to prepare an environmental impact survey of their activities. He added that it was therefore insufficient that the company had prepared risk and environmental impact assessments on each of its installations, as many of them have deteriorated due to natural factors, and their impact on the environment may have changed.
This is demonstrated by a significant rise in environmental incidents: Amitay mentioned dozens of fuel odor issues in the Ashkelon area. Last year there were three such incidents defined as serious, after which thousands of residents complained of nausea, dizziness and other symptoms. After another incident that took place a few months ago, the Environmental Protection Ministry launched a criminal investigation into the matter.
The Europe Asia Pipeline Company responded: “These are baseless claims. There has been no change in the company’s activities, and it maintains its installations on a regular basis at a very high level. The allegations of natural deterioration and odor issues is part of the association’s defamation campaign, which apparently stems from reasons unconnected to professional data. The claim that there were dozens of such events is also baseless. The company is committed to the safety and security of the region’s residents, in which it invests many resources and means.”