Big Businesses Cost Israeli Taxpayers NIS 13 Billion in Health, Environmental Damage

Israel’s 570 largest factories cost the state 13 billion shekels ($ 3.9 billion) in damage to public health and the environment last year, according to latest annual emissions report gas pollutants and global warming released Monday by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Although this is the eighth annual report of its kind, it is the first to assess the external, or indirect, costs of these emissions according to criteria set by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). These costs include, for example, hospital care for people with pollution-related illnesses or cleaning up a river contaminated with industrial waste.

The findings of the report are based on data provided by the major companies themselves in the fields of energy, chemicals, metals, food and beverage, waste and wastewater treatment and intensive breeding.

The 13 billion shekels they cost the country represented 73% of the total indirect costs imposed on Israeli taxpayers by the operations of all companies in the areas concerned.

Orot Rabin’s power station in Hadera, seen from the ruins of ancient Caesarea, Israel, July 24, 2015 (Garrett Mills / Flash 90)

The worst offender was the Orot Rabin power plant in Hadera, on Israel’s northern coast, which cost the country NIS 3.7 ($ 1.1 billion) in external costs. It still partially uses coal and has not improved its technology to substantially reduce its emissions.

Orot Rabin was followed by the Rutenberg power plant in Ashkelon, on the south coast, whose external costs were estimated at 1.65 billion shekels ($ 500 million).

In third place, the Nesher cement plant in central Ramle cost the state 1.2 billion shekels ($ 360 million) in indirect costs.

Part of the Nesher cement plant in central Israel. (Screenshot)

Bazan oil refineries in northern Israel’s Haifa Bay, a popular public punching bag for air pollution, ranked ninth, with external costs of 349 million shekels (105 million of dollars).

Among the ten companies the report praised for cutting external costs was Texas-based oil and gas exploration company Noble Energy, which took second.

Noble Energy’s Tamar natural gas platform has been forced to install technology that absorbs emissions into the system rather than pushing them out into the air.

This follows shocking revelations in 2017 that emissions of substances known or suspected to be carcinogenic by the platform were equivalent to the total of those emissions from 570 large industrial plants across the country, including maligned oil refineries. from Haifa.

Workers seen at the Tamar natural gas processing platform, 23 km (14 miles) off the south coast of Ashkelon, October 11, 2013 (Moshe Shai / Flash90)

The platform’s new technology resulted in a 61% drop in the platform’s emissions of potentially carcinogenic substances and a reduction in the cost of consequential damages from NIS 37.5 million ($ 11 million) to NIS 14. 4 million shekels ($ 4.3 million), according to the report.

In all 570 factories, nitrogen oxides fell by 11%, largely due to Israel’s gradual shift from coal to natural gas. Coal is expected to be completely phased out by 2030, to be replaced by gas, producing 70% of the country’s electricity, and renewables – mainly solar fields – providing the remaining 30%.

But per capita emissions of nitrogen oxides are still double what they are in developed countries. Note the absence of changes since 2012 in the quantities of nitrogen oxides emitted by the Nesher cement plant.

Nitrogen oxides are a family of toxic and highly reactive gases that form when fuel is burned at high temperatures. They contribute to acid rain and global warming, help cause or worsen respiratory illnesses such as emphysema and bronchitis and, when mixed with volatile organic compounds during periods of sunshine, form smog, which can damage the lungs of children, asthmatics and those who work. outside.

The Nesher cement plant near Ramle, central Israel. (Screenshot)

Earlier this year, the Department of the Environment approved a revised emission permit for Nesher, despite warnings from local residents and environmental activists that this will see the plant pump even greater amounts of harmful chemicals into it. ‘air.

Sulfur dioxide, exposure to which irritates the respiratory system, fell by 28%, while volatile organic compounds excluding methane but including carcinogenic benzenes fell by a third.

Greenhouse gases increased by 2%, the report says, but that only takes into account carbon dioxide emissions. On a per capita basis, Israelis were exposed to 54 tonnes of carbon dioxide last year.

On the other hand, the ministry finds that methane emissions fell by 9% between 2018 and 2019 due to technical upgrades to the Tamar gas platform and improvements to wastewater treatment plants. . Figures on methane releases from the Leviathan gas platform, which began commercial operation in January, do not need to be presented until next year.

The 20-year global warming potential of methane – the main component of natural gas – is 84 times that of carbon dioxide, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Earlier this year, the nonprofit Adam Teva V’Din attempted to estimate the amount of methane released, not only from stacks, but throughout the production and distribution chain of gas wells. Israelis Tamar and Leviathan, until his arrival in gas-fired power plants.

To date, the only information Israel collects on methane emissions from natural gas is that the now closed Tamar and Mari-B platforms have reported to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Arie Vanger, the organization’s head of air issues, calculated that as Israel shifts from coal and oil to natural gas over the next several years, total greenhouse gas emissions will in fact increase by a net annual average of 6.4 million tonnes, or the equivalent of 8% per year.

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