Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz vowed in the Knesset plenum on
Wednesday that he would not renew the license of the Haifa Chemicals ammonia
plant after 2016 and called upon the relevant authorities to agree on an
alternative location in the South.
While the government determined last
year that the facility must close and move to an unpopulated portion of the
Negev by 2017, plans for the move have not yet progressed due to bureaucratic
disagreements. The 17,000-ton ammonia tanker’s presence in Haifa became an even
bigger hot-button issue last week, after a Texas fertilizer plant exploded in
flames, leaving 14 dead and 200 injured.
Peretz, along with Home Front
Defense Minister and former environmental protection minister Gilad Erdan,
immediately called for the government to make the ammonia tanker’s move after
the Texas incident.
Meanwhile, MK Miri Regev (Likud), chairwoman of the
Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, held a special discussion on
the issue Tuesday, during which she and other Knesset members demanded the swift
transfer of the facility.
“We must anticipate the solution to the
disaster so that we don’t reach an ‘I told you so’ situation,” said MK Dov Henin
(Hadash) at the plenary, accusing the plant of operating without a proper
building permit or business license.
MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) likewise
warned that “the potential for harm is clear and known” and that “disaster is
written on the wall.”
After visiting the site a few weeks ago, Peretz
stressed that as an environment minister and former defense minister, he felt
the urgency of the matter and would strive to prevent the container from
becoming a target. At the end of Wednesday’s discussion, the Knesset plenum
decided to continue the dialogue in the Internal Affairs and Environment
Committee, a Knesset spokesman said.