(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In light of the tragedy at a Texas fertilizer plant on Wednesday night, Home
Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan and Environmental Protection Minister Amir
Peretz called on the government to urgently allocate the budget to move the
Haifa ammonia facility to an unpopulated area in the South.
materials near populations are a ticking time bomb and it is our duty to invest
the necessary funds and accelerate the separation of hazardous materials from
population centers,” Erdan said.
While ammonia – a nitrogen and hydrogen
combination – and fertilizer – typically a mix of nitrogen, phosphorus and
potassium – are different substances, government officials and environmental
activists have long viewed the Haifa Chemicals ammonia tanker, located amid a
large population center, as extremely dangerous.
The cabinet decided on
March 1, 2012, to evacuate the ammonia facility to a southern location that is
far from residential areas. Work at the Haifa site must cease by the beginning
of 2017, according to the decision.
The March 2012 decision was prompted
by arguments from then-environmental protection minister Erdan and
then-industry, trade and labor minister Shalom Simhon.
In the aftermath
of the Texas incident, Erdan stressed that that the government must take heed of
the threat’s gravity and urgently allocate the budget required for the move,
which has been delayed due to lack of funding.
Peretz has likewise made
the ammonia facility move a top priority at the Environmental Protection
Ministry, pointing out the dangers of the dangers of the facility’s location
during a site visit two weeks ago.
“Every moment that passes and in which
enormous quantities of ammonia are stored next to the public is a dangerous
moment,” Peretz said.
“We must look at the explosion in Texas as a
warning light and not accept the continued existence of the container in Haifa
Peretz stressed that the government must act urgently to move the
tanker, and following a request of the Environmental Protection Ministry, a
discussion on the issue will take place at the prime minister’s office on
Sunday, chaired by the head of the National Security Council
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, the ministry noted. Also present will be
Environmental Protection Ministry director-general Alona Shefer-Karo, as well as
representatives of the Finance Ministry and of the Economy and Trade
“All parties involved need to understand that time is short and
the job is immense,” Peretz said. “There is no reason that justifies the
continuation of this dangerous situation, and today more than ever there is an
opportunity to implement this due to the natural gas that is flowing into
Meanwhile, Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee
chairwoman Miri Regev said she would hold a special discussion on the issue at
the Knesset on Tuesday morning, to address the risks associated with the
The nationwide volunteer student organization Green
Course, which has been actively promoting the container’s move, likewise
stressed the urgency of addressing the situation following the Texas disaster. A
leakage of just 10 percent of the container could kill 17,000 people
immediately, the organization said – citing a government-commissioned report
prepared by Herzl Shafir on Haifa Port’s disaster readiness in
Green Course turned to Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Monday
demanding the budget necessary to immediately evacuate the ammonia tanker from
The environmental activism group Zalul also called for the
government to follow through on promises to remove the ammonia container from
Haifa Bay as a matter of national priority. While the ammonia tank at the Texas
fertilizer facility only contained a few thousand tons of ammonia for fertilizer
production, the container in Haifa contains 12,000 tons of the potentially
explosive material, Zalul stressed.
“The fertilizer plant explosion in
Texas is a frightening reminder of the disaster that could occur as a result of
an explosion mixed with ammonia gas close to a population,” the organization
Far to the south of Haifa, Be’er Tuviya residents saw the Texas
incident as proof that a planned natural gas facility should not be located in
their midst – in an industrial complex that contains 70 tons of ammonia and is
in easy range of Gazan rocket-fire. The residents sent urgent appeals to Erdan
and Peretz following the Texas disaster, praising the ministers’ efforts to
remove the Haifa ammonia container but stressing the importance of keeping their
area safe from harm.
The Environmental Protection Ministry has maintained
that it sees little risk in establishing a natural gas facility in the Be’er
Tuviya industrial zone, and the entrepreneurs behind the project have reiterated
that the site will operate according to the highest of international safety