Oil Refineries Strike Back In Haifa Air PollutionWar

Pollution spewing into the air in Haifa.  (Basel Awidat/FLASH90)
Pollution spewing into the air in Haifa. (Basel Awidat/FLASH90)

Haifa mayor Yona Yahav’s self-declared war on air pollution in the city continued on Monday as he sent garbage trucks to block access to Oil Refineries plants for a second day while the company was granted a court stay on cancellation of its licenses.

“These trucks were sent once again on Monday morning to block access to four petrochemical plants and a refinery,” Tzahi Terrano, a spokesman for the Haifa City Council, told AFP.

“The owners tried to remove them but they did not manage to,” he said. Media reports said that cranes had been used to remove the trucks.

In response to a report attributing a high incidence of cancer in the area to air pollution, Yahav decided to shut down the refinery, though the legality of his action was questionable.

Oil Refineries charged that the announcements by the mayor were “lacking authority, groundless, and legally invalid.”

The company petitioned the Haifa Local Affairs Court, which issued an order staying the city’s cancellation of the company’s operating licenses until ruled otherwise. A hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday.

Unfazed by the response, Yahav said he would not relent until the government issues a clarification of whether the air pollution levels in Haifa and the surrounding area were “really catastrophic for public health,” Terrano said.

The mayor would only remove the trucks if faced with a direct order of the court, he said.

The plants in question produce raw materials for the production of other materials. Carmel Olefins makes polymers used mainly in the plastics industry (polypropylene and polyethylene), Gadiv Petrochemical produces aromatic materials (such as benzene and paraxylene), and Haifa Basic Oils also makes raw materials for the production of various items.

Bonds issued by Israel Petrochemical, a major shareholder in Oil Refineries, were down sharply, amounting to a drop of over 10% in some of the series, Globes said. Oil Refineries’ shares rose slightly Monday, and the trend in most of Israel Petrochemical’s bonds was also positive.

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