The end of 2010 was accompanied by a slew of news stories depicting foul corruption in Israel's government, but at least the air we breathe may become somewhat cleaner from now on: the Clean Air Law went into effect January 1.
According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the main provisions of the law are:
- Regulating the treatment of different air pollution factors within a single legal framework.
- Preparing a national program for the reduction of pollutant emissions to air which will enable compliance with environmental standards and will aspire to comply with target values as well.
- Setting air quality values (environmental standards) and updating them
- Requiring plants with a potential for high air pollution to obtain emission permits as a prerequisite for continued activity
- Establishing economic incentives for reducing emissions into the atmosphere
- Expanding the powers vested in the Ministry of Environmental Protection on air pollution emission from mobile sources
- Implementing stringent and deterrent means of enforcement against violators who endanger human health
- Expanding the supervision and enforcement powers of the Ministry of Environmental Protection
- Transparency and public participation
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said the law marks "the beginning of a new era," and promised it will "protect human life and health and will improve the quality of life of the public in Israel." The law positions Israel "on par with developed countries worldwide," he stated.
The Ministry enumerated some of the changes it now intends to effect through the law:
Emission permits: The Clean Air Law requires industrial plants with a high air pollution potential to obtain an emission permit from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and stipulates that such plants may not be established or operated without a permit. Specific requirements will be set for each industrial plant, on a plant by plant basis, rather than on a sectoral basis, in order to bring about maximum emissions reductions.
National program for air pollution reduction: By law, the ministry is required to prepare a national program for the prevention and reduction of air pollution and to submit it to the government by the end of 2011. For this purpose, an expert committee has been set up to check the existing situation in Israel. It is expected to submit its recommendations to the Minister of Environmental Protection by mid-January.
Environmental sampling: In order to characterize air quality in Israel and prepare a database which will allow the Ministry to check the feasibility of environmental air quality values and check trends for the purpose of policy setting, the Ministry prepared a multi-annual plan for measuring air pollutants which are not measured in monitoring stations. The plan establishes permanent sampling points throughout the country in which sampling will be undertaken at a frequency of once in two weeks. The cost of the plan is 20 million shekels per year.
Establishment of a monitoring network: The ministry currently operates 23 air monitoring stations, and another 100 stations are operated by other organizations including local authorities and industrial plants. The ministry is preparing rules and guidelines on the operation of monitoring stations within a national network. The establishment of the network will allow for uniform operation of the monitoring stations and for the creation of a uniform database to assess air quality in Israel.
Enforcement measures against factories: The Clean Air Law establishes a number of enforcement measures against anyone breaching its provisions. These include, inter alia, orders to prevent and stop air pollution, administrative financial sanctions of hundreds of thousands of shekels, and criminal investigation and indictments, where warranted. The ministry is preparing the infrastructure for the imposition of financial sanctions by means of regulations and work procedures.
Spot checks of emission sources: The ministry conducts spot checks in the stacks of industrial plants for purposes of inspection and enforcement. Priorities and frequencies of sampling are set in accordance with the air pollution potential of the emission sources. Plants requiring an emission permit will be checked more frequently.
Clean Air Regulations (Air Quality Values): Proposed regulations which define air quality values were submitted to the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee for approval. The regulations set maximum permissible limits of air pollutants in the environment.
Broadening of the ministry's authority on air pollution from mobile sources: Under the law, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has the authority to set standards for vehicles and fuels including import standards for vehicles, annual registration tests, fuel quality, etc.
Air pollution from vehicles: A proposed amendment to the current law determines that the testing method for vehicular air pollution and emissions in the annual registration test will be adapted to the European method. According to this method, the binding emission values will be those set by the vehicle manufacturer for the specific vehicle model and the air pollution test will be specifically adapted to this vehicle model.
Roadside enforcement of air pollution from vehicles: At present, there are six mobile stations for vehicular air pollution testing on the country's roadsides. The ministry has published a tender for the joint operation of five additional mobile stations with interested local authorities.
Publication of data: The ministry has completed its preparations for publishing air pollution data as per the requirements of the law, including: industrial emissions, air pollution data and pollution forecasts, permits and licenses. The data will be published on the ministry's Hebrew website in the beginning of January 2011.