INSIDE THE MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Air Pollution Monitoring
Plans for a nationwide air monitoring system which will cover all geographical areas of the country have received a go-ahead following a decision by the Ministry of Finance to allocate 9 million shekels (about $3 million) for the three-year project and the selection of a company to set up the network. While the original plan envisioned a 50-station network, the reduced budget made available by the Treasury should enable the establishment of 24 monitoring stations, two regional centers and a national control center for data storage, analysis and display. First priority will go to ten monitoring stations and a regional center in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.
Personal Orders to Abate Pollution
The Minister of the Environment has issued personal orders, within the framework of the Abatement of Nuisances Law of 1961, to the Acre Steelworks, the Angel Bakery in Jerusalem, and the Phoenicia glass plant in Yeruham. The personal orders require the plants, inter alia, to comply with stringent emission standards, to undertake monitoring, and to adhere to specific timetables for reducing nuisances. In addition, amendments were made to existing personal orders against the Nesher cement plant in Haifa and the power plants in Haifa and Ashdod. The Haifa power plant will be required to burn low-sulfur fuel continuously as of 1.1.96 while the Ashdod power plant will burn low-sulfur fuel during seven months of the year beginning in 1996.
Financial Grants to Industry
The greening of industry in Israel has been given a green light with the selection of the Marmanet group to aid the Ministry of the Environment in implementing a financial grant program to industry for environmental improvement. Financial grants will be offered to industrial plants which will invest in the abatement of environmental nuisances in the realms of air quality, industrial effluents, hazardous materials and solid waste. The grants, at a rate of 35% of the investment up to a ceiling of one million shekels, are designed to help cover the costs of monitoring, treatment and environment-friendly production processes and technology in existing industries. Some 112.5 million shekels (#37.3 million) have been allocated for industrial investment in 1995.
Initial grant applications are already being processed by the administrator in charge of industry in the Ministry of the Environment. Preliminary reviews are conducted by the administrator in cooperation with the relevant professional division and the relevant district office of the ministry in order to establish compliance with threshold criteria. If approved in principle, the application is submitted to the consulting administration (Marmanet) for professional review of its engineering, environmental, economic and legal aspects. Marmanet’s expert team, headed by former director general of the Ministry of the Environment Dr. Uri Marinov, then prepares a professional opinion and recommendations to the Ministry of the Environment. The final decision rests with a steering committee, chaired by he director general of the Ministry of the Environment and including representatives of the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Trade and Commerce. Funds are only transferred to the industrial plant once the project is fully implemented and validated by the Marmanet team.
With the recent inauguration of two additional stations for monitoring background gamma-radiation in Israel, Israel’s radiation detection system, initiated in 1986, is now complete with monitoring stations in Tel Aviv, Kfar Hasidim, Haifa, Jerusalem, Beersheba, Dimona and Ashdod. Data from the stations are collected and processed in graph form, and the results are sent to the WHO/UNEP Global Environmental radiation Monitoring Network
Budget for Hazardous Substances
The government has allocated 68 million shekels ($22.6 million) for the operation of Israel’s national contingency system for hazardous substances. The decision will expedite implementation of the system which includes the participation of many bodies.
The Ministry of the Environment has recently completed the purchase of four new mobile laboratory units for hazardous substances. These, along with the existing three units, complete the ministry’s national system which is targeted at detection, monitoring, and risk assessment in case of an incident involving hazardous substances. To further strengthen the system, the ministry is equipping another four professional response teams in the municipalities of Eilat, Ashdod, Petach Tikva, and Netanya. Finally, a national center for the study of hazardous substances is being established to promote high-level training of all those involved in the implementation of the system.
Dead Sea Works Concession Law Approved
The final draft of the Dead Sea Works Concession Law (Legislative Amendments) was approved by the Knesset in February 1995 following over two years of controversy between environmental and economic interests. The law obliges the Dead Sea Works, for the first time, to abide by the National Planning and Building Law and the Licensing of Businesses Law, but provides for escape clauses in cases in which environmental interests conflict with the aims of the concession. The Dead Sea Works operate under a special law, enacted in 1961, which grants the company a concession to exploit the natural resources of the Dead Sea in an area covering approximately 620,000 square kilometers (some 3% of the entire area of the country).
The recently-approved law, and the Dead Sea Concession Law (Emergency Measures) which preceded it, were vehemently opposed by environmental groups. The laws were designed to solve the problem which arose in the summer of 1992 when the Beersheba District Court ruled that the company stop the development work it was carrying out without a planning and building permit. To enable the company to continue working on eight major development projects, the Knesset enacted a special emergency law in March 1994 which retroactively authorized the development work as well as all previous work conducted in the concession area. Requirements regarding the implementation of the eight projects were set by a specially-appointed committee.
The Ministry of the Environment is opposed, in principle, to the granting of preferential conditions to any industrial plant. Although it was not successful in abolishing the preferential status which the law grants to the Dead Sea Works, environmental input has nevertheless been instrumental in incorporating special conditions and precautions for environmental and nature protection within the law so as to ensure a balance between environmental interests and the goals of the concession. While the eight projects included in the 1994 emergency law will be viewed as businesses which were granted a business license, special conditions, including environmental obligations, may be imposed on their operation. However, an administrative stop order, in case of non- compliance with environmental conditions, may not be issued by the Ministry of the Environment without government approval.