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Israel MoEP enforcing vehicle exclusion rules in Haifa Bay Low Emission Zone; $2.8M to retrofit 700 diesel trucks with DPFs

As part the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection’s (MoEP’s) action plan to reduce pollution in Haifa Bay in Israel, Israel Police are actively enforcing exclusion rules that bar heavy vehicles in downtown Haifa Bay at certain times of the day.

Data from the Haifa municipality shows that until January 2016, some 600 heavy vehicles (more than 12 tons) would be on the roads in downtown Haifa every day during rush hour. However, since Israel Police began actively enforcing rules, that number has fallen to 200 vehicles, a 60% decrease. The MoEP expects the number of heavy vehicles in the area to drop even further, as police continue to enforce the rules. As of March 14, 2016, they already handed out 192 tickets to violators, totaling NIS 96,000 (US$24,768) in fines.

The traffic prohibitions are part of the creation of Israel’s first low-emission zone, an area restricted to polluting diesel vehicles. This is within the framework of the Haifa Bay Action Plan to Reduce Pollution and Environmental Risks.

We are leading a dramatic process that for the first time ever, is shutting polluting vehicles out of an Israeli city. The move to reduce the number of polluting trucks on the road integrates with a series of other measures to reduce vehicular air pollution in Haifa Bay, such as the massive installation of vapor recovery systems in gas stations, the move to convert buses and garbage trucks to natural gas, and more. All of these measures will lead to the goal we set for ourselves this year, to turn the city of Haifa into a low-emissions zone that will be restricted to polluting vehicles. Such areas are operational in more than 200 cities across Europe that suffer from air pollution.

—MoEP Director General Yisrael Dancziger

According to the MoEP, Haifa Bay is one of Israel’s air pollution hotspots due to its high concentration of industrial plants, including an oil refinery and chemical and petrochemical industries, alongside high transport loads and port activities.

Air pollution, Haifa. Photo: Ilan Malester. Source: MoEP. Click to enlarge.

The situation is exacerbated by the physical proximity of a wide range of hazardous material sources—including an ammonia tank and fuel farms—to population centers, and by topographic and climatic conditions that aggravate air pollutant dispersion. As a result, pollutant emissions and hazardous material risks threaten a population of more than half a million residents living in a 165 square kilometer metropolitan area.

The Haifa region began air quality monitoring some 30 years ago; the metropolitan area now has the densest air quality monitoring network in Israel with 27 continuous monitoring stations that measure criteria pollutants including sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, ozone, particulates and more.

Based on the results of monitoring and sampling, MoEP initiated an air pollution reduction action plan for Haifa Bay in February 2008. Implementation of best available technologies (BAT) led to a 65% decrease in NMVOC emissions between 2009 and 2015.

However, in light of the environmental and health data still being collected, and in accordance with the precautionary principle, MoEP decided that additional steps are necessary to reduce pollutant emissions to the environment significantly while at the same time expanding monitoring and increasing epidemiological research on air pollution-related mortality and morbidity in Haifa Bay. MoEP thus launched a new environmental action plan for Haifa Bay in 2015.

The action plan sets regional targets for the reduction of air pollutant emissions from industrial sources in Haifa Bay and calls for reducing NMVOC emissions by a further 48% by 2018 relative to emissions in 2014.

A number of the measures target the stationary industrial sources. However, vehicles in Haifa Bay contribute more than half of NOx emissions; a quarter of NMVOC emissions; and a quarter of PM2.5 emissions in the region.

Diesel vehicles, while responsible for only 20% of the kilometers traveled, contribute 75% of the fine particles emitted by transportation.

The action plan is targeting making Haifa the first city in Israel that is free of polluting diesel smoke. Measures to achieve this include:

  • Establishing Israel’s first “Low Emission Zone” to restrict the entry of diesel vehicles unless equipped with particulate filters.

  • Launching a pilot project for at least 30 public transport buses powered by natural gas, including the maintenance and fueling infrastructure.

  • Promoting the movement of trucks in Haifa’s Carmel Tunnels by means of lower tariffs in order to minimize truck traffic in the city’s most densely populated area, thereby reducing population exposure to pollution and noise by 97%.

  • Supporting the purchase of 22 new trucks powered by natural gas and installing about 12 particulate filters in the rest of the diesel truck fleet, thus making Haifa the first city in Israel to operate a low-pollution garbage collection fleet.

  • Supporting the operation of 500 electric taxis through financial incentives.

  • Providing incentives and support for the installation of particulate filters in diesel vehicles (especially trucks and buses) in Haifa Bay.

Related specifically to that last item, the MoEP published a tender on 7 March to select car repair shops in Haifa Bay that will be authorized to install diesel particulate filters in heavy vehicles. The MoEP will fund the installation of these filters in 700 heavy vehicles, at a cost of NIS 11 million (US$2.8 million).

Owners of diesel vehicles that want to have the cost of the installation covered by the ministry will have to get it done at an authorized shop, which will receive compensation from the MoEP. Garages have until 4 May 2016 to submit proposals.


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