The Energy Ministry drafted a proposal to solve the Haifa Bay’s pollution problem that includes moving or shuttering factories that handle dangerous chemicals, as well as changing the country’s energy use as a whole.
The proposal comes due to the impasse in developing the Haifa Bay area. It has not yet been formally presented to the committee of ministry director generals for developing the Haifa Bay area, but some elements were presented orally during a meeting this week.
The proposal includes moving Haifa Chemicals’ fertilizer facilities out of the bay area, advancing use of the new oil refinery dock, halting use of the government-owned Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures storage facilities in Kiryat Haim, and encouraging the Bazan Group (formerly Haifa Oil Refineries) to leave the area, independent of halting oil refinery operations.
In order to enable these changes, the plan also calls to cut back Israel’s overall use of benzene, diesel and cooking gas.
The plan calls for these processes to happen over approximately a decade, without stating precise dates. This is for legal reasons, in order to reduce potential compensation that the companies could sue for.
It calls to guide the Finance Ministry, Energy Ministry, Planning Authority, Interior Ministry and Environmental Protection Ministry as well as local authorities through the process, which would include issuing building permits and ensuring that crucial industries remain in operation during the changes, including after local oil refining halts.
In order to reduce the impact of the Haifa petrochemical facilities, it proposes that the chemical storage facility in the Haifa suburb Kiryat Haim be shuttered by July 1, 2025, and that Bazan store its oil at its own complex. There was a previous plan to move the Kiryat Haim storage facilities farther north, but it has since became unnecessary due to the intention to halt oil refining in Haifa altogether.
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The government-owned Kiryat Haim storage facilities cover 900 dunams and are close to homes. Once the site is cleared, it could be rezoned for homes. Residents have been fighting for years to have the complex closed or moved, and the Environmental Protection Ministry called in Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures executives last year for a hearing over suspicions of faulty maintenance.
Bazan meanwhile has its own 2,000-dunam facility. In order to move storage there, it would need rezoning and permits. The plan calls for permits to be issued by the end of 2023. Thus the government would remove one of the Haifa Bay’s most polluting facilities, without forcing the privately-owned Bazan to move.
During the committee discussion, professional sources said that moving the facilities and building alternate infrastructure and energy sources would take until at least 2030 or 2031, and therefore work should start well before a date is set to move Bazan, a process that will undoubtedly involve legal hurdles. The Energy Ministry proposed moving the 100-dunam refinery facilities near the old refinery dock. A new, modern refinery dock is planned, and once it’s completed, the facilities and the old dock could be moved quickly.
The Haifa Bay is also home to a fertilizer factory owned by Israel Chemicals, considered to be one of the area’s major polluters. The proposal states that the fertilizer factory should be moved by the time oil refining is halted, within a decade.