Israel's Environment Ministry Report Names Haifa Refineries as Top Polluters

Overall, the numbers show a considerable decline in industrial air pollution.

Hagay Frid

The Environment Ministry reported Tuesday that industrial air pollution declined by tens of percentage points from 2012 to 2014 as many plants took measures to limit emissions, as well as due to the increased use of natural gas. According to ministry data, the Haifa oil refineries are the country’s leading polluters.

The 2014 data show a significant drop in the levels of several types of emissions compared to 2012, with the biggest being a 40 percent drop in the amount of particle emissions that can penetrate the respiratory system. There was also an approximately 30 percent drop in sulfur dioxide emissions.

At the same time, there was a 36 percent rise in emissions of the hothouse gas methane, as a result of landfill practices, as well as drilling and the transport of methane-based natural gas.

There was also a steep drop in emissions of industrial pollution into the sea in recent years, largely as a result of the reduction in the amount of sludge released into the sea by the sewage treatment facility in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. By next year, this should be reduced to zero.

The Environment Ministry publishes an environmental impact index of public and government companies, which is released to the stock exchange and can affect the stock price of traded companies. The index is based on a point system that evaluates how big a polluter the company is and how well it adheres to environmental law.

The Haifa oil refineries earned the worst environmental impact rating. Also among the top 10 polluters are the Ashdod power station and the Ashdod refineries. According to the Environment Ministry report, the Haifa refineries exceeded the permissible limit for a number of emissions in 2014.

A spokesperson for the Haifa oil refineries responded that “the group has not received and is not familiar with the report and the criteria on which it was based." Since the refineries' privatization in 2007, the group "has spearheaded an uncompromising policy to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes," and "has invested more than a billion shekels into environmental issues, with an emphasis on pollution-reduction measures... The group regularly submits regular reports about emissions to the authorities and complies with all standards and permits,” added the spokesperson.

Attorney Jamila Hardel-Wakim of Citizens for the Environment said that the Environment Ministry publishes incomplete information. "The index data are only partial and aimed at stock market investors. When we want to know what the plants are actually emitting from the smokestacks, we have to go to court under the Freedom of Information Act When there’s no real information given, it’s no wonder the factories keep on polluting,” she said.