The Israel environment minister has levied an NIS 18.5 million ($4.7 million) fine on Paz Refineries of Ashdod for polluting the Mediterranean Sea – the largest fine for an environmental offense ever levied in Israel.
With that, industry experts expected courts to reduce that sum when the company appeals the fine.
The fine comes after a three-year investigation by the Ministry of the company and senior officials, which produced an airtight case proving that the refinery dumped polluted water into the sea, despite years of denials. According to officials, Paz dumped dangerous chemicals and other materials into the sea far in excess of what was permitted.
According to Meir Yaakobes, chairperson of the Tzalul environmental activist group, “this is an important accomplishment for the Ministry, but we must remember that although NIS 18.5 million sounds like a high fine, for a company like Paz that just in the last quarter earned over NIS 240 million, it is clearly a drop in the bucket. We demand that the Ministry not be satisfied with just a fine, but issue indictments as well.”
In a statement, Paz Refineries Ashdod said that “the Ministry has indicated its intentions and has invited representatives of the company to discuss the matter before making a final decision. We believe that we did not take any actions that were beyond the law, and that no crimes were committed.”