Israeli company charged for huge 2014 oil leak, killing animals and plants

Oil is going through sand in nature reserve
Israel's former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks out of a helicopter window at the polluted area caused by an oil leak, December 9, 2014, photo: Reuters/Marc Israel Sellem/Pool

The government of Israel pressed charges Tuesday against Europe Asia Pipeline Company (EAPC) for causing one of the country’s biggest ecological disasters.

In December 2014, an estimated 3-5 million liters of crude oil leaked from a breached EAPC pipeline, contaminating much of the Evrona nature reserve. Animals and plants were killed, and water sources and soil contaminated.

The company and four of its former employees are held responsible and are accused of negligence during maintenance work. They were charged with water and land contamination, resulting from their negligence, according to the indictment.

In a 2019 lawsuit, EAPC agreed to pay 100 million Israeli shekels ($32 million, 27 million euros) damages toward rehabilitating the polluted area. The EAPC called the spill an “abnormal event” that was a result of “specific shortcomings”.

“Since the incident, EAPC has drawn conclusions, changed procedures and taken many measures to rehabilitate the land,” a statement from the company said.

The charge comes as EAPC is in the middle of closing a deal to be the middle man in transporting oil from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Europe.

The deal would see Gulf oil brought to Eilat by tanker, then moved by an EAPC pipeline through mainland Israel to the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon, where it would be shipped to Europe.

Israeli environmentalists say that the deal between EAPC and MED-RED Land Bridge, a company with Emirati and Israeli owners, hasn’t been researched enough and lacks the necessary approvals.

The deal also faces backlash from Israel’s environmental protection ministry, which in July announced that the risk assessment
conducted by EAPC ahead of implementing the agreement was lacking.

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