Secret Recording of Israeli Energy Infrastructure Firm's CEO Sheds Light on Pollution Cover-ups

State monitoring of pollution at fuel plants is susceptible to manipulation, sources say.

Fuel tanks in Kiryat Tivon.
Rami Shllush

State monitoring of pollution at fuel plants, storage tanks and nearby residential areas is susceptible to manipulation by many plants trying to bring the data into the required range, 10 people involved in the monitoring told Haaretz.

The monitoring is carried out by subcontractors on behalf of the Environmental Protection Ministry.

A recording of a conversation between the chief executive of state-owned company Petroleum and Energy Infrastructure Ltd. and a member of the Kiryat Tivon local council, near Haifa, sheds light on the issue.

In the recording, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, the chief executive of Petroleum and Energy Infrastructure, Rafi Tatarka, berates council member Alon Navot. Tatarka is angry at Navot for installing a monitoring device without his knowledge and says he would have prepared for it had he known in advance. The conversation took place about a year ago.

The conversation followed a Kiryat Tivon local council meeting where opposition members raised the issue of the tank farm, which covers 300 dunams (74 acres) next to a residential neighborhood.

The authorities demanded a soil survey, steps to reduce air pollution and permanent roofs over the tanks. The next day, Tatarka asked to meet with Navot, now head of the opposition.

Tatarka described the installation of the monitoring station as “an ambush” and asked Navot to take the issue off the agenda.

“You installed it – how should I put it? – behind my back. You couldn’t have told me? You might have found excess emissions, and then I might have found myself facing criminal charges, and you don’t care?” Tatarka said.

“You could have come to me and said, ‘Rafi, there’s going to be a monitoring facility here next month.’ And I would have said to you, ‘Alon, wait another month, I’ll find a way to deal with it.’”

Navot told Haaretz that he had installed the monitor to “clarify the suspicion that the tanks might be a polluting agent. I put it there as part of the effort to find out what’s going on in the air above Kiryat Tivon.”

Navot lost the council election shortly after the device was installed. He says he doesn’t know the results of the monitoring or when the device was removed.

The residents of Kiryat Tivon have been trying for years to get the tank farm moved. The town has grown and the tanks, which date back to the ‘60s, are today very close to homes. Air pollution, soil pollution and groundwater pollution have all been found in surveys.

The tank farm is slated to be transferred to Haifa Bay under a plan called Northern Lands drawn up years ago. But the implementation of the plan is stalled.

The current head of the Kiryat Tivon council is opposed to the transfer of the tanks as long as there is no replacement for the municipal tax paid by Petroleum and Energy Infrastructure.

For its part, the company said “the chief executive of PEI has a years-long personal friendship with Alon Navot, who served under him in the army. The meeting between the two was social and we regret that cynical use was made of things said between friends.”