An executive committee set up by the prime minister of Israel has recommended the closure of all petrochemical facilities in Haifa in the north of the country, including an oil refinery, chemical complex and tank farms, within a decade.
The cross-party Executive Committee for the Development and Promotion of Haifa Bay says that industry in the area, which is near residential areas, creates one of the biggest pollution centres in Israel, with excess morbidity in the Haifa region related to air pollution, such as respiratory disease and birth defects.
The committee was established in October 2020 to look at the future of heavy industry in the area, existing and future employment needs, housing needs and pollution risks. Its recommendations include creating a metropolitan park on the site, new housing and establishing green businesses and tourism. The committee’s report says that it has found alternative solutions to supply distillates, LPG, bitumen and condensate, which are possible within suggested ten-year period.
According to The Times of Israel, both the energy and finance ministries in Israel have said that the report is not balanced. The energy ministry said that the petrochemical industry’s contribution to pollution in Israel is very small compared to marine and road transport pollution (around 10%).
The finance ministry meanwhile backs development of the bay and shutting down the petrochemical industry, but says that the ten-year timescale is unrealistic. It wants to see the creation of a smaller committee to come up with a deadline, by the end of 2023, which would leave enough time to plan replacement energy infrastructure and design a viable financial framework.
The Bazan Group, which owns the refinery, Israel’s largest, told The Times of Israel that the recommendations contradict the positions of major government ministries, and suggested that there are ulterior motives to the recommendations. The company said that the calculations by the committee on development costs, incomes and a compensation deal, were too low. It further called for the incoming government to have a ‘professional’ discussion based on facts rather than slogans.