Environmental Protection Ministry makes emissions data accessible to public

Public will be bale to access emissions data from 426 businesses in industrial, agricultural and other sectors.

By
December 1, 2013 18:00
4 minute read.
Pollution

carbon pollution 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Environmental Protection Ministry made 2012 emissions data for more than 400 factories across Israel available to the public on Sunday, with the launch of its Environmental Emissions Registry project.

By means of the project, it is now possible for the public to access emissions data from 426 factories and businesses in the industrial, agricultural, wastewater, waste and hazardous waste sectors. Publishing this data is in accordance with an amendment passed last year by the ministry that requires industries to report what pollutants their factories are releasing, the ministry explained. The launch of the project, as part of the adaptation of the United Nations Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR), was also a condition for Israel’s membership in the OECD.

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Members of the public can access the database on the ministry’s website, through which they can sort through factories in alphabetical order or by location on a map of Israel. All reports of contaminant release for each company also provide explanations as to the effects of the specific material and the degree of danger posed to humans and the environment.

Within the first four hours of the database’s launch, the ministry reported receiving seven times more visitors than usual, with about 4,000 users hourly.

“One of the key goals that I am working for is to enable the people of Israel to breathe clean air everywhere,” said Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz. “Transparency proves itself to be a key component in the fight against polluters, and even when it comes to factories that meet regulations, we intend to continue working toward reducing pollution.”

The data collected for these 426 facilities indicate that industries emitted 57.167 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in 2012. Most of the emissions, however, are being generated in accordance with the strict regulations established and approved by the ministry, the office acknowledged.

Israel officially acceded to PRTR – also known as the Kiev Protocol – in January, approximately 10 years after the protocol was first adopted at the Aarhus Convention.

The protocol aims “to enhance public access to information through the establishment of coherent, nationwide pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTRs),” and is the first such legally binding international tool to take on this goal.

The primary reason that Israel was a relative latecomer to PRTR accession was that the country lacked domestic legislation on the subject, an issue that was eventually overcome by pushes from ministry officials and by the OECD. Israel became an OECD member in June 2010, and by August that year had prepared a draft version of the country’s PRTR policy.

The internal PRTR legislation was enacted in Israel on April 1, 2012, and by June 30 the ministry began collecting emissions data from factories all over the country.

“The struggle for clean air is not only a catchphrase,” Peretz said. “The impact on the economy and on morbidity is reaching enormous proportions, and according to ministry estimates, rising pollution levels cost NIS 14.2 billion each year.”

The Israel Electric Corporation, whose power plants showed particularly high emissions levels for the year 2012 in the ministry database, stressed in response that the levels were unusually high in 2012 due to the disruption of the Egyptian gas supply, resulting in the need to use jet fuel oil and diesel. With the arrival of gas from the Tamar reservoir in March 2013, the IEC resumed producing 50 percent of its electricity by means of the much cleaner natural gas, the company said.

While all of the numbers used in the database were provided by the companies themselves, the IEC criticized the ministry for failing to “give a true indication of the public’s exposure to pollutant materials.”

Certain measures taken by power plants – such as higher chimneys and hot gas temperatures that disperse the pollutants – lead to a situation in which only a small fraction of the contaminants reach the population, in comparison to emissions coming from vehicles, the IEC said.

The industries listed in the PRTR database may be releasing the emissions into the air, but when it comes to curbing air pollution in Israel, Peretz was perhaps most critical of the Finance Ministry. This spring, Finance Minister Yair Lapid decided to eliminate the country’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction program from the national budget.

“Despite budget cuts and Treasury decisions to cancel the program for combating pollution, we are continuing to cope with and work for the right to breathe clean air as much as possible, but if the attitude of the Treasury on the subject – which is so critical and important – does not change, the problem will only be exacerbated,” Peretz said. “We have no intention of hiding information from the public, and will continue to act transparently and make accessible the information that belongs first and foremost to the public.”


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