The environmental protection principle that “the polluter pays” was significantly reinforced this week by a High Court ruling on a case dealing with dangerous asbestos waste handling in the Western Galilee.
The court denied a petition filed by the Eitanit company, formerly an asbestos manufacturer, against the law stipulating it must finance a significant part of removing the asbestos waste accumulated in the Western Galilee.
Now it will be possible to implement the full extent of the removal project and stop the exposure of the region’s residents to a toxic, dangerous substance.
“The polluter pays” principle is implemented in several states, including Israel, to make the parties that produce pollution responsible for paying for the damage done to the natural environment and encourage them to prevent these hazards.
According to the law, even though the polluter has not been supplying asbestos for the past two decades, he must pay.
The polluter, Eitanit, gave or sold asbestos waste to the region’s residents at a time when it was not against the law to do so. Nonetheless, the court ruled the company must pay up to NIS 150 million, as stipulated by the law.
The court based its ruling on the situation in other countries, where authorities place greater responsibility on companies that produced and marketed products that were presumed hazardous to the environment.
The court widened the scope of the law and said companies must be held responsible for every stage of the production process, from raw material to refuse.
The ruling could and should have far-reaching implications for Israel’s environment. According to the principle set by the court, state institutions and local authorities will be able to demand that waste producers and industrial plants take responsibility for activity that generates a negative impact on the environment.
This could give gas and oil companies and mineral mining companies in the Negev and Dead Sea an economic incentive to plan their activity carefully and reduce their environmental impact as much as possible.