Pipeline Company to Pay NIS 100M Over Negev Environmental Damage

The oil leak in the Evrona Nature Reserve in 2014. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

The Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC), which was responsible for a major oil spill in the Negev in 2014, will pay the state NIS 100 million in fines, the largest ever imposed in an environmental violations case and one of the highest ever paid out in a class-action lawsuit.

The fine is the outcome of a major oil spill that took place in 2014 in the Arava. An improperly laid section of pipe cracked, causing millions of liters of thick oil to creep across the region. It is estimated that a total of 5 million liters of crude oil spilled out, with several nature reserves suffering extensive damage. Especially affected was the Evrona Nature Reserve, which had been the home of unique vegetation and animals not found elsewhere in Israel.

The NIS 100 million settlement was negotiated out of court by the company and the state, and it was approved by the Beer Sheva District Court, where the class-action suit was being heard. The money will be divided between the Parks and Nature Authority, which will receive NIS 20 million to repair damage the oil spill did to nature reserves in southern Israel; NIS 7 million will be divided among the residents of the area whose property was damaged by the spill; NIS 10 million will be paid to prevent future spills; and most of the rest of the money will be divided between all Israelis, who were represented by environmental groups in the class-action suit. The method of how that money will be distributed has yet to be determined.

Attorneys said that the settlement was a major precedent, in that such a heavy fine was imposed over ecological damage, as opposed to damage to people or property. Officials said that it would take years for the nature reserves to be restored fully.