Industry: Gov’t needs clear environmental vision

The past three years have been ‘very intensive’ regarding regulations, ministry deputy director-general Shuli Nezer says.

Haifa industry 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimsky)
Haifa industry 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimsky)
The government must do a better job in putting environmental regulations under one umbrella and creating a clearer, longer-term vision as to how new policies will apply to industry, leaders from the field agreed on Tuesday.
“We’re not against laws to protect the environment, but we are talking about a good measures,” said Amir Hayek, director of the Manufacturers Association of Israel. “You know, we also have kids growing up in this country.”
Hyek was participating in a panel session at this year’s environmental law conference at the Tel Aviv Hilton on Environment 2050: Economy, Environment, Society – Trends and Challenges. The conference was organized by the Yuval Levy & Co. law firm, the Environmental Services Company, the BMP Bnai Moran company and a number of other academic and professional sponsors.
Industry leaders may be critical about the ways the government has imposed new regulations upon them, but is wrong to pit industry against environmental protection in any way, according to Hayek.
“The government itself has to find that fine equilibrium between environment and industry,” he said.
While industry pays billions of shekels each year in taxes that provide for the welfare of the country’s citizens, lately the government has been slamming the companies with too many new regulations all at once, something that is encouraging companies to go abroad, Hayek said. “We are now in a situation where everything is coming together, all these blows at once. It’s not comfortable – it’s threatening.”
Such “exaggerated regulatory” measures can threaten small and medium-sized companies even more so than large ones, and ultimately cause firms to shut down when they cannot meet the slew of new requirements suddenly levied upon them, Hayek said.
“It’s a lose-lose situation at the end of the day,” he said.
Shuli Nezer, deputy director-general for industries and licensing at the Environmental Protection Ministry, acknowledged that the past three years have been “very intensive” regarding industry regulations.
“It’s because we have a very dedicated minister of great aspirations and he was really successful during this period of time in taking things that were waiting and pending” and bringing them to fruition, she explained.
While industry leaders criticized what they said was the disorganized state of Israeli environmental regulation of industry, they did have praise for Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan. Asher Greenbaum, deputy director of Israel Chemicals, praised Erdan’s recent statements that environmental regulations concerning industry will be similar to those worldwide, particularly in OECD countries.
“I think that this is something that the industry wished for throughout the years,” Greenbaum said. “The industry always supported environmental protection that would be unified.”
As environmental standards become increasingly strict, Greenbaum encouraged industry leaders to always aim to achieve more than what is required of them, and to take responsibility for their products until they become recycled.
“I am responsible for taking the material back and until then I am not going to let go of this responsibility,” he said.
One problem industries face in getting licenses is that environmental clearances do not only fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Ministry and instead involve at least 10 other administrations, according to Ziva Patir, vice president of international standardization at Better Place.
All types of environmental factors that might affect industry construction should be integrated under unified legislation, with one governmental body controlling all the permits, Greenbaum said.
“We would also like to see everything in Israel under one umbrella, under one regulator, so that when industry receives a permit it would know that it received a permit,” he said.
The indistinct hierarchy among local and national authorities presents problems regarding environmental regulation enforcement, Nezer agreed.
“We also believe we have to improve the service we give industries,” she said. “We’re talking about a one-stop shop, one body that will deal with all the different factors of a specific plant.”
In addition, the government must make sure it is looking far into the future, according to the industry leaders.
“As an industry we want a regulatory horizon,” Hyek said. “We want to see where we’re going, see long-term planning for 20-30 years, and not planning that is for the lifespan of this or another government.”