A government committee empowered to decide the issue on Wednesday said that it would authorize the import and storage of ammonia into Israel in small containers. The permits for imports will be issued by the government, and remain valid until the planned construction of an ammonia storage facility in the Negev is completed.
The committee, led by MK Amir Peretz, toured the Haifa Bay facilities where the imported ammonia would be stored. The plan was decided after numerous discussions, and was accepted as one of 12 plans for the import and storage of ammonia after the storage facility in Haifa was shut down.
Haifa Chemicals shut that facility last August, firing hundreds of workers. The decision came after several meetings between government officials and company executives, in the wake of an announcement by owner James Trump earlier in August that the company could not handle the financial burden imposed on it by the High Court to drain the storage vats of ammonia located in Haifa Bay without suitable alternatives – which the government still, after years of discussion, has still not provided or even planned for. “If the government is unable or unwilling to fulfill its role as a regulator and provide the means by which Israel’s fertilizer and other ammonia-dependent industries can survive, we certainly are unable to do so,” Trump wrote to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a letter.
The issue of where to store the ammonia has been a hot topic for years. In 2013, the Environment Ministry approved a plan to move it to a less-populated area of the Negev, because of fears that a leak or other incident could endanger the healths and lives of the 800,000 residents of the region. The matter has been a cause celebré for environmental groups for decades, who have organized many petitions, protests, and marches over the years to move the facility.