Dutch govt sent back to drawing board over gas field

2017-11-15 22:08
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The Hague - The highest Dutch court on Wednesday threw out plans to cap extraction in Europe's largest gas field at current levels and gave the government 12 months to draw up new proposals.

Residents in northern Groningen province, backed by environmental groups, took the government to court earlier this year, calling for a complete shutdown of production there after a series of damaging earthquakes.

In a blow to the government, the Council of State ruled that the former economics minister "has so far failed to properly substantiate his previous decision to allow 21.6 billion cubic metres to be extracted over the next five years".

It ruled ex-minister Henk Kamp "should have explained more clearly the risk for people in the earthquake zone," and had "failed to make clear potential measures to limit the demand for gas".

Current level

Granting the government "a year to reach a new, better substantiated decision," the court added it had been unconvinced by Kamp's argument about "the impossibility of assessing the risks of gas extraction for people in the earthquake zone".

Over the past two years, the Netherlands has drastically scaled back gas production from about 42.5 billion cubic metres in 2015.

After several reductions, Kamp announced in April that output would be cut further from 24 billion cubic metres then to 21.6 billion cubic metres.

But there has been outrage among residents as the region has experienced a slew of minor tremors due to the collapse of empty underground pockets, which have damaged homes, farms and historical buildings.

The court ruled however that gas production could continue at the current level until the government has drawn up its new plan.

NAM, the energy company responsible for the gas extraction, is half-owned by Shell and ExxonMobil and has been extracting gas from the massive Groningen field since 1963.

The new coalition government, inaugurated last month, has vowed to keep the issue of the earthquakes "high on the agenda" and to ensure the "guiding principle is safety first".

It also plans to wean the Dutch off natural gas for heating and has pledged "to reduce demand for Groningen gas by 3 billion cubic metres between now and 2021."

Read more on:    the netherlands  |  environment

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