Israel Environment Bulletin Spring 1997-5757, Vol. 20, No. 2

ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION

Environmental Quality Law (Punitive Measures) (Amendments to Legislation), 1997

A revolutionary law was passed by the Knesset on April 1, 1997. It will provide Israel’s existing environmental legislation with the necessary clout to make compliance worthwhile. Previously, environmental laws which dealt with the prevention of nuisances on land (excluding the Water Law which was amended in 1991) did not provide adequate means for law enforcement, nuisance prevention and repair of damages, nor did they establish fine levels which were high enough to deter violations. The laws, in short, did not reflect the importance which is now accorded to protectingand improvingenvironmental quality.

The new law, which came into force on June 10, 1997, changes this situation. According to the law, anyone who violates the existing laws in the fields of cleanliness, abatement of nuisances, road signs on interurban highways, hazardous substances and public health will be liable to stringent punitive measuresmeasures which are also intended to implement the "polluter pays" principle and to assure environmental quality in the long term.

The stated aim of the law is "to protect and preserve a proper quality of the environment, to prevent environmental damage, and to restore the position which existed before the damage by expanding enforcement measures and by imposing more severe punishments pursuant to five laws dealing with environmental protection."

In view of the significance of the new law, a detailed presentation of the amendments which were introduced into all five laws and into each individually is presented below:

Amendments Introduced into Each of the Five Laws:

In the case of continuing violations, a Court can impose incremental daily fines at a rate of 5% per day from the day a warning is first issued.

Fines are doubled in case of a conviction for the same offense within a two year period.

All offenses are strict liability offenses, dispensing of the need to prove intent or negligence.

Responsibility is imposed on corporate office holders to supervise and to take all measures to prevent violations by the corporation or by its employees. Contravention of this obligation constitutes a separate offense.

The Court is empowered, following presentation of an indictment, to issue orders or other remedies prior to sentencing in order to prevent, stop or minimize nuisances.

The laws provide for the creation of finable offenses which enable the offender to pay a fine and dispense with the need for court proceedings. Under three of the laws (Maintenance of Cleanliness, Abatement of Nuisances and Hazardous Substances), a private criminal complaint may be filed by a person to whom damage has been caused or by an affected local authority or by specified public interest groups. The procedure is similar to that which exists in the Prevention of Environmental Nuisances (Civil Actions) Law.

Amendments to the Maintenance of Cleanliness Law, 1984

The definition of "waste" has been widened to include abattoir, yard and bulk waste as well as tires.

Local authorities are required to set up sites for the disposal or collection and treatment of construction and demolition waste, yard waste, tires and vehicle scrap. The law requires certain types of wastes to be disposed to specially designated sites.

The definition of the aims of the Cleanliness Fund has been broadened to include environmental protection, cleanliness, recycling, nuisance prevention, illegal signposting and contravention of hazardous substances legislation.

Money collected from fines imposed on offenders under these five laws is payable into the Cleanliness Fund.

The Minister of the Environment is authorized to issue a Cleanup Order and to order any person who litters the public domain, an owner of a property in which the waste was disposed or a local authority in whose jurisdiction the waste was disposed, to remove the waste at a time and manner to be determined and to require restoration to pre-existing conditions to the extent feasible.

The Minister of the Environment can execute the Cleanup Order independently, if the person responsible for carrying out the order fails to do so, and to charge the latter with double the expenses payable into the Cleanliness Fund.

The law’s Statute of Limitation has been extended from one to two years. The Minister of the Environment is authorized to promulgate regulations on subjects relating to the prevention of littering in the public domain. The penalty clause has been broadened and corporations are liable to double fines as follows:

Offenses for which a maximum fine of NIS 49,800 (NIS 99,600 for a corporation) may be imposed include: illegal disposal of waste and non-compliance with the obligations to affix signs in vehicles, to label beverage containers, and to pay a Cleanliness Fee.

Offenses for which a maximum of one year’s imprisonment or a fine of NIS 150,000 (NIS 300,000 for a corporation) may be imposed include: illegal disposal of bulk waste, construction and demolition debris, abattoir waste or tires, waste from vessels, defacing the public domain with notices or graffiti, non-compliance with a Cleanup Order issued by the Minister of the Environment and non-establishment of waste disposal sites.

If any of the above-mentioned wastes are illegally disposed of from a vehicle, the Court may, in addition to any other penalty, disqualify the driver from holding a driver’s license for a period of one year and revoke the vehicle license for a period of 6 months.

Offenses for which a maximum of two years imprisonment or a fine of NIS 300,000 (NIS 600,000 for a corporation) may be imposed include: illegal disposal of waste which contains a hazardous substance, hazardous substance packaging or contravention of any of the provisions listed above under aggravated circumstances.

Amendments to the Abatement of Nuisances Law, 1961

The Minister of the Environment is now explicitly named as the minister responsible for the law and he is authorized to appoint inspectors. The Minister of the Environment is authorized to issue Nuisance Removal Orders, similar to Cleanup Orders, and in case of non-compliance, to remove the nuisance independently and to charge the person responsible with double the expenses to be paid into the Cleanliness Fund.

The law applies to the State, with the exception of various security-related activities. However these exempted activities are to be carried out in accordance with the provisions of the law to the extent possible.

Offenders contravening the provisions of the law, personal decrees or regulations under the law, are liable to six months imprisonment or a fine of NIS 150,000 (NIS 300,000 for a corporation).

If the offense is committed under aggravated circumstances, or if anyone pollutes the air with a material containing a hazardous substance he is liable to six months imprisonment or a fine of NIS 300,000 (NIS 600,000 for a corporation).

Amendment to the Roads (Affixing of Signs) Law 1966

In addition to the prohibition of affixing signs along interurban roads, a new offense has been added for a trailing sign or a sign-carrying vehicle. The penalty clause establishes that affixing a sign in a manner which is contrary to the provisions of the law or to the conditions specified in the permit or non-removal of a sign are liable to a fine of NIS 75,000 (NIS 150,000 for a corporation).

Hazardous Substances Law, 1993

The definitions of the terms "commodity" and "occupation" have been broadened to include a range of activities.

Various types of poisons permits will be issued for different durations according to set criteria.

The Minister of the Environment or a person authorised by him may make the issue of a poisons permit conditional upon compliance with prior conditions or special conditions stipulated in the permit which may be changed with due notification.

A hearing procedure is established enabling an authorized ministry official to cancel a poisons permit, for reasons stipulated in the law, after giving the permit holder an opportunity to be heard.

The Minister of the Environment is authorized to issue a Poison Removal Order and, in case of non-compliance with the order, to implement the order independently and to charge the person responsible double the expenses to be paid to the Cleanliness Fund.

The law applies to the State, with the exception of security-related activities, as in the Prevention of Nuisances Law mentioned above. The following penalties now apply:

Six months imprisonment or fine of NIS 150,000 (NIS 300,000 for a corporation) for non-maintenance of a poisons register or non-presentation of a poisons permit.

Three years imprisonment or fine of NIS 150,000 (NIS 600,000 for a corporation) for dealing with poisons without a permit, violation of permit conditions, provision of false information regarding the permit or poisons register, non-compliance with a Poisons Removal Order or storage of poisons in contravention to the provisions of the law.

Three years imprisonment or fine of NIS 600,000 (NIS 1.2 million for a corporation) for offenses under aggravated circumstances.

Public Health Ordinance, 1940

The penalty for offenses under the sections of the law relating to water quality and environmental nuisances is six months imprisonment or a fine of NIS 150,000 (NIS 300,000 for a corporation). In case of an offense committed after receipt of a notice, warning or order related to a nuisance or under aggravated circumstances, the file is doubled (NIS 300,000 and NIS 600,000 for a corporation).