Big businesses claim environmental regulations too strict; Environment Protection Ministry insists law on par with other nations worldwide; public health must come first

News agencies
Published: 08.23.12

Are Israel’s industry environmental regulations driving local industries out of the country? Many businesses would say yes.

Israel adheres to the same environmental regulations practiced by the European Union, as well as some practiced in the United States; but unlike them, it has yet to fully form a regulatory mechanism to fully assess their effects and effectiveness.

The State has been trying to enhance regulation, via various legislation and the creation of the Polluting Industries Database, but the mechanism if still fledgling, and the government seems to be zigzagging on major issues, like the enforcement of the Clean Air Act, recycling laws and the responsibility for rehabilitating land contaminated by industrial operations.

Industry insiders say that the laws and regulation put in place by the government have a direct link to a recent, disconcerting trend that sees some industries moving out of Israel.

Industries seem to be having the most difficulty meeting Environment Protection Ministry’s air pollution regulations, considered much stricter than the EU’s.

Europe follows regulation stating that industries are to follow “BAT” (Best Available Technology) when selecting emission filtration mechanisms, but while EU regulations set pollution standards at 5-20mg of pollution for cubic meter. Israel set its regulation to 5mg only.

Many peg the demand as “nearly impossible,” and it appears that Israeli industries are relocating their factories to Europe, where regulations are more lenient.

The governments of many European countries have realized the potential, and countries like Germany and France are trying to capitalize on that, offering industries attracting foreign-investor terms.

In Israel, however, plants that are unable to make the move suffer financial losses, and the smaller factories are simply forces to close down.

Israeli media quoted leading attorney Arie Neiger as saying that the local regulations foster “a scorched-earth policy,” and that that the only reason big industries have to remain in Israel is Zionism.

The Environmental Protection Ministry, however, maintains that its measure are meant to protect public health, which it holds in the heights priority.

A ministry statement said that its policy is to “Prevent pollution ahead of time and to treat hazards created over years.”

The ministry also stressed that it had no knowledge of any direct link between any factory closing down over environmental regulations, underscoring that Israel’s environmental regulations, especially those implemented in recent years, “Have been in place in other Western nations for years. The ministry adopted international standards and regulations customary in the most advanced countries.

“The ministry sees industry as an essential cornerstone in Israeli society and it aspires to allow industry to develop while minimizing its impact on the environment and public health, and maintaining the best standards of international practiced today,” the statement said.,7340,L-4269824,00.html