Three environmental organizations asked the High Court of Justice on Tuesday to intervene and stop an agreement between Israel’s Europe-Asia Pipeline Co. and a company partly owned by the United Arab Emirates and Israeli interests to pipe large quantities of Emirati oil through Israel.
The groups asked the court to issue an order instructing the government and EAPC to explain why the agreement had not been brought to the cabinet for approval and why the company had not been required to prevent damage to the environment that the deal will create. They also sought an order instructing the government to explain why it doesn’t rescind the agreement altogether due to the environmental risks involved.
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The agreement with MED-RED Land Bridge has not been shown to the public yet. The three green organizations – the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense and Zalul – claim that no government ministries have been shown the terms of the accord. The Finance Ministry, which is responsible for EAPC, told the petitioners that it did not have a copy of the agreement.
EAPC released only a short announcement about the pact, which did not include information beyond stating that its purpose is to turn Israel into a land bridge for the transportation of oil of between Europe and Asia. Officials of the environmental groups met with EAPC executives, who told them that some of oil and refined oil would remain in Israel and not be re-exported to other countries. In addition, the groups told the court, EAPC admitted that to date it had not conducted an examination of the environmental risks posed by transporting oil, but that such a study was being prepared now.
The petitioners assert that the agreement must be approved by the cabinet after it weighs the public interest and environmental impact. They base their claim on the Government Companies Law, which they claim requires state-owned enterprises signing agreements like the one with MED-RED to take a series of steps beforehand, including cabinet consent.
Government environmental bodies have expressed strong opposition to the pipeline deal. Their main concern is about the impact of an accident or other fault in the pipeline that would cause oil to spill into the Gulf of Eilat and harm coral reefs. Environmental Affairs Minister Gila Gamliel criticized the agreement last week, pointing to the huge oil spill off Israel’s Mediterranean coast two months ago as the kind of threat the Gulf of Eilat may face.
In addition, scientists at the Nature and Parks Authority recently published a position paper warning of the dire consequence of moving large quantities of oil through the Gulf of Eilat.
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EAPC already operates a pipeline that runs between Eilat and Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast, but it does little business. Environmental groups have said the number of oil tankers in the gulf could increase by a factor of 20 to 100 annually.