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Government issues plan to reduce red tape in environmental licensing and help businesses
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Government issues plan to reduce red tape in environmental licensing and help businesses

Government issues plan to cut red tape in environmental licensing, help business

The Finance Ministry and the Environmental Protection Ministry issued a memorandum describing a plan to reform the way that environmental permits are granted to businesses. It was available for public comment for 21 days on Sunday.

The government wants to reduce bureaucratic redtape by combining multiple permits into a single permit that is valid from seven to ten year, in line European practice.

The legislation includes, among other things: the integration of European regulatory laws into Israeli law, the combining of main permits into one long-term permit, reducing waiting times, and creating an electronic one-stop shop for all permit-related dealings.

The bill also promises “substantial additions” to the licensing staff at the Environmental Protection Ministry.

One major departure from the current Israeli norm, businesses will be able appeal to the Environmental Protection Ministry. Currently, appeals are only allowed for business licenses. The new proposals will extend this right to appeal to permits for air pollution or the use of hazardous substances.

The plan provides that businesses will be allowed to appeal if they can demonstrate the existence one of the following four conditions: a substantial difference between the cost of complying and the expected environmental benefits; inability of meeting the time frame for implementing these conditions; inconsistency or inconsistency in the conditions set out by the permit and EU standard; or a substantial difference in the conditions that permit holders have been ordered to meet when compared to other permit holders in similar circumstances.

December 28, 2017, air pollution in the Negev desert near Ramat Hovav, southern Israel. (Yaniv Nadav/FLASH90)

Infrastructure companies in the fields of rail and air transportation, ports, power stations, desalination, and fuel storage and transportation will be able to appeal “where permit conditions may harm a significant public interest in quality or service to the public or economy or raise the cost of living in this sector.”

In a joint statement, the two ministries stated that the reform will bring Israeli practice in line to European standards, reduce wait times for permits by more the 400 hours per annum, and save NIS 500million ($157 million) direct costs and NIS 2 billion to NIS3 billion ($630-940 million indirect costs). Companies would be able to save NIS 85 million annually (more than $25 millions) on permit-related bureaucracy.

The savings would reduce NIS 3.7billion ($1.16billion) annually that manufacturing and electric industries spend on environment protection each year. This is an 11 percent higher percentage of GDP than Europe and 15% to 23% more than OECD countries.

Limits on air pollution, hazardous materials and discharge at sea, among others, are currently imposed within the framework three different permits. While treatment of waste forms part a business permit, they do not apply to discharging at sea. The permits are issued at different offices and have different validity periods.

Yellow water is seen in the Zin stream in southern Israel’s Negev Desert. (Roi Galili)

Israel joined the OECD as an observer in 2010 and committed to following the European standards and principles of environmental regulation. This includes issuing single permits that cover a range of issues.

Moves to reform Israel’s environmental licensing failed to advance in 2015.

The current version is based on an August 2021 government decision. It seeks to amend existing legislation such as the Clean Air Act rather than create a new one.

Both ministries hope to present the proposals to the Constitution Law and Justice Committee by March.

Dr. Arye Vanger of the environmental non-profit organization Adam, Teva V’Din. (Courtesy)

Dr. Arye Vanger of the environmental advocacy organization Adam Teva V’Din welcomed the steps toward a unified permit to reduce red tape but said it was critical to ensure that bureaucratic simplification did not lead to watered-down environmental requirements.

He demanded transparency and warned that if too many issues are left open for negotiation with companies, the end result could be more pollution than it is prevention.

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As The Times of Israel’s Environment Reporter, I try to communicate the science and facts behind climate change and environmental degrading, to explain and critique the official policies that affect our future, and to discuss Israeli technologies that could be part of the solution.

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