The state-owned Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC) will pay NIS 100 million ($28 million) in damages over a 2014 oil spill in southern Israel, considered to be the worst ecological disaster in the country’s history, according to the terms of a settlement reached Thursday in a class action suit.
The Environmental Protection Ministry, which was involved in mediation proceedings, said the payout “is the highest reached during proceedings on environmental disasters,” and marks a “significant milestone” for environmental law and its enforcement.
Last year, the Environmental Protection Ministry had assessed the damages at NIS 281 million ($80 million).
EAPC will pay NIS 65.2 million ($18 million), in addition to the NIS 32 million ($9 million) it said it had already paid to rehabilitate the area and conduct research. Of the former sum some 20 million ($5.7 million) will be earmarked for continued efforts to preserve the area while another NIS 24 million ($6.8 million) is to be dispensed as damages to affected parties over the ecological disaster, and the remaining funds allocated to environmental projects and research.
According to the ministry, some 5 million liters of crude oil were spilled in December 2014 when a pipeline belonging to state-owned EAPC ruptured, causing significant environmental damage to the Arava desert and Evrona Nature Reserve.
The EAPC said at the time that the Trans-Israel pipeline was damaged during maintenance.
Over 80 people were treated for medical problems on both sides of the Israel-Jordan border following the spill, as crude oil flooded the Route 90 highway leading into Eilat. The vast majority of those initially affected were in Jordan.
The Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company was established in 1968 as a joint Israeli-Iranian venture to carry Asian oil from Eilat to Europe via a network of pipelines that reach from Eilat to Ashkelon and up the length of Israel to Haifa.
According to the EAPC website, the company currently operates 750 kilometers (466 miles) of pipeline in Israel.
As relations between Israel and Iran deteriorated following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Tehran dropped out of the arrangement and the company is now managed only by Israel.