Israeli Oil Firm Fined $490,000 Decade After Major Spill

Three current and former executives of the Europe Asia Pipeline Company were also penalized for their part in the environmental damage caused to Nahal Zin

The second oil spill in Nahal Zin in September 2011.
The second oil spill in Nahal Zin in September 2011.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

An Israeli court ruled Tuesday that state-owned Europe Asia Pipeline Company must pay a fine of 1.6 million shekels ($490,000) for polluting a stream in Israel in 2011.

In addition, the company’s former CEO and two other senior executives were fined tens of thousands of shekels each.

The penalties, which will be paid to the Environmental Protection Ministry’s Maintenance of Cleanliness Fund, come after the court convicted EAPC and the senior officials in February of polluting Nahal Zin and its environs in separate incidents in June and September 2011. In both cases, hundreds of thousands of liters of jet fuel leaked into the stream from a company pipeline.

In her ruling on Tuesday, Judge Sara Haviv of the Be'er Sheva Magistrate's Court said the “nature and scope of the damage” were severe. Nevertheless, she added, the senior executives “aren’t directly responsible for the damage to the pipeline.” Their crime was failing to do everything they could to prevent it.

EAPC’s fine must be paid within three months, she ruled, and if the company commits any similar offenses over the next two years, it will have to pay an additional penalty of 3 million shekels.

EAPC’s former CEO, Yair Vida, was fined 75,000 shekels, though he can choose six months in jail instead. Shlomo Levy, the current vice president for safety and environmental protection, who was deputy head of the engineering department in 2011, was given the choice of paying a fine of 150,000 shekels or serving nine months in jail. Nir Savyon, the vice president for engineering, who was a project manager in 2011, was given the option of a 100,000-shekel fine or nine months in jail.

In her verdict in February, Haviv wrote that the company and the three executives hadn’t prepared sufficiently to cope with such an emergency or done enough to minimize the risks of a spill. Therefore, even though the damage to the pipeline was actually caused by employees of a subcontractor, EAPC was ultimately responsible for it.

Two inspectors hired by the company were also indicted but acquitted.

The accidents occurred while EAPC was making repairs to the casing of a 153-kilometer stretch of a pipeline that carried jet fuel. It hired a civil engineering firm to do the work, and that firm in turn hired a subcontractor to do the earthworks.

In late June 2011, the driver of a digger who was trying to uproot a tree sank the vehicle’s teeth into the pipeline instead. Over the next five hours, 722,000 liters of fuel spilled out, polluting 60 dunams (15 acres) of the stream and its environs. Nine weeks later, a power shovel being that was being used to clear a path some 200 meters south of the original leak accidentally cut into the pipeline and again released hundreds of thousands of liters of jet fuel.

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