The public prosecution department has been ordered in court to carry out a criminal investigation into the earthquake damage caused by natural gas extraction in Groningen.
Judges said on Thursday there are indications that gas company NAM is ‘guilty of damaging homes so severely that they pose a risk to life’. The case refers to damage caused between 1993 and April 2015, when gas extraction was at its height.
The public prosecution department said earlier it did not want to investigate NAM because the case did not fall under the criminal justice system.
‘An investigation must now take place to determine if prosecution should follow,’ the court said in a statement. NAM is a joint venture between Shell and ExxonMobil.
Lawyer Emile van Reydt, who represents people whose homes have been damaged, told website Nu.nl if there is evidence that senior officials at NAM knew about the damage, they could face prosecution.
‘In that scenario, they could face 15 years in jail,’ he said.
NAM said in a statement it is surprised by the court decision but would cooperate fully with any inquiry.
Earlier this week the government said it is further reducing the amount of gas being extracted from the Groningen fields to head off the risk of further earthquakes.