Gas stops top offenders in environmental compliance

Peretz: Yellow and red cards given to companies "that committed environmental crimes against the public."

June 4, 2013 02:08
4 minute read.
A man pumping gasoline at a gas station

A man pumping gasoline at a gas station 370 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

The Azrieli Group, Dor Alon and the Delek Group were the three most flagrant violators of environmental compliance orders in the Environmental Protection Ministry’s second annual “Ranking of Environmental Compliance for Public Companies,” released on Monday.

With the purpose of providing vital information to investors both in Israel and abroad, the ranking system aims to shed light on the environmental conditions of large publicly traded companies, according to ministry officials.

By providing transparent information about company environmental behavior, the rankings can motivate the firms to take steps to reduce their impact on the environment, the officials explained at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Monday.

In this year’s rankings, the ministry identified numerous environmental violations such as emitting toxic substances into the air, discharging hazardous materials into the groundwater and hiding information from the ministry.

“The public has a right to know what environmental damages its investment funds are financing,” said Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz. “A company that violates the law creates risks for investors, and we must inform them. Today we are giving yellow and red cards to companies that committed environmental crimes against the public.”

The rankings, Peretz explained, represent “the struggle for the environment” and an attempt to involve the public in influencing corporate behavior.

This year the ministry compiled data on 61 companies, using a methodology built in conjunction with the firm Greeneye, explained Galit Cohen, deputy director-general for policy and planning at the ministry. The method took into consideration hazards or incidents known to the ministry as well as enforcement measures taken against companies that have violated regulations, Cohen said.

Topping the charts of the worst offenders was the Azrieli Group, predominantly due to its ownership of Sonol fuel stations.

Ministry data showed that approximately 64 percent of Sonol stations hid vital information from the office regarding their actions to prevent fuel leakage to the ground, ministry officials said.

Alon Holdings Blue Square- Israel Ltd. and the Dor Alon company – under the same ownership – came respectively in second and third place due to Dor Alon’s concealment of water pollution activities, which even resulted in a criminal conviction in court.

Meanwhile, the Delek Group was the fourth top offender for violating the poisons permit issued to the company, as well as for allowing oil to spill on land, ministry officials said.

Three months after an emergency event occurred in one Delek Group facility, another occurred at that same site and ended up killing one worker, the officials added.

Trailing the Delek Group in fifth place was the Paz Group, for emitting toxins into the air that exceeded acceptable levels by 20-fold.

“We are talking about many violations for every company,” said Shuli Nezer, director of air quality and climate change at the ministry.

Other companies to receive red-card status included the Bazan Group, Elbit Systems, Israel Corp., Israel Petrochemicals Enterprises and Hadera Paper.

Another 15 companies received yellow-card status: Clal, Mivtah Shamir (for Tnuva), Carmel Olefins, Ten Gas Stations, Rekah Pharmaceutical Group, Israel Electric Corporation, Polyram, Israel Chemicals, Shikun V’Binui, Teva, Africa Israel Investments, Danshar, Makhteshim Agan, Osem, Sano, Delta, Koor Industries, Discount Investment Corporation, IDB Group, Plasto- Sac, BIG, Perrigo and Palram.

The officials stressed, however, that despite these 34 yellow and red cards, there were also 27 companies on the list that showed no negative environmental behaviors and properly reported all of their relevant environmental data to the ministry.

In response to the report, the Delek Group said in a statement that the company performs pollution prevention activities and checks company infrastructures frequently, in amounts that exceed the quantity required by law.

The company invests tens of millions of shekels each year in preventing pollution of the air, soil and groundwater and in treating past hazards, the statement continued.

One-third of the industrial activity at Delek focuses on recycling and distilling oils and solvents for reuse in industry, the company added.

Regarding the specific death that the ministry referred to, the company rejected the claim that the “unfortunate work accident” was related to environmental issues.

The company has been and will continue to follow all instructions of the Environment Ministry and the Water Authority, the statement said.

The Delek Group also said that it has expressed complaints about the methodology of the report and the ranking method, charging that it does not truly reflect environmental compliance and thereby misleads the public.

Sonol, meanwhile, said that the index published “does not reflect the changes and improvements that have been made in the past two years.”

The ratings contradict another report published several days ago ranking Sonol in first place for gas stations in terms of preventing land contamination, the statement continued.

The Sonol response called the ministry ranking process “bizarre and unacceptable” and stressed that the gas stations work with transparency and full cooperation with the ministry.

The Azrieli Group, which owns Sonol, said that Sonol’s contribution to the entire Azrieli Group’s profits is only 0.7%.

The group slammed the ministry for employing a “flawed methodology” as well as “distorting reality and misleading the public.”

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