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After oil spill, Environment Ministry to pursue funding pledged 12 years ago

Implementation of 2008 government decision to create plan for national response to spills was stymied at the time by Treasury

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Tar washed up onto Tel Shikmona beach in northern Israel, February 21, 2020. (Tomer Ofri, Israel Nature and Parks Authority)
Tar washed up onto Tel Shikmona beach in northern Israel, February 21, 2020. (Tomer Ofri, Israel Nature and Parks Authority)

The Environmental Protection Ministry will try to leverage a catastrophic oil spill that has contaminated beaches up and down the land with tar to try to get the funds and legislative backing it should have received over a decade ago when the government decided to formulate a National Plan for Preparedness and Response to Marine Oil Pollution Incidents.

A cabinet decision (in Hebrew) made in June 2008, when Ehud Olmert was prime minister, ordered that within three to five years from January 1, 2009, the ministry would fill staff positions and acquire all the equipment and sailing vessels needed to prevent oil contaminations at sea.

The ministry was instructed to discuss with the Treasury any funding needs it could not meet on its own, in the run-up to the 2009 budget.

The decision also instructed the environmental protection minister at the time to enshrine the plan in law along with the requirements of the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation, to which Israel was a signatory.

However, the Finance Ministry blocked the transfer of additional funds and opposed enshrining the decision into law.

The current environmental protection minister, Gila Gamliel, said Sunday that she had agreed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to submit a proposal for government approval on Monday for immediate funding for beach rehabilitation and advancement of the legislation that should have been passed years ago.

No financial details were given.

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