Senate votes to end gas drilling in Groningen this year


The senate has voted to close the Groningen gas fields permanently after 61 years, removing the last obstacle to the shutdown.

Mines minister Hans Vijlbrief said the gas taps could be switched off as early as May 1, sooner than the originally planned date of October 1, which is the start of the next “gas year”.

Senators had originally been due to vote on the law formalising the closure two weeks ago, but several parties, including VVD, PVV and BBB, called for a delay because of concerns about energy security.

The decision sparked fury in the northern province, where local officials accused parliament of backtracking on its promise to end gas drilling, which has triggered more than 1,600 earthquakes in the last 40 years and damaged 85,000 buildings.

In 2018 the then economic affairs minister, Eric Wiebes, agreed to phase out gas production in Groningen, but said contracts to supply gas to other countries had to be honoured.

Last October the supply was suspended but left on standby mode in case a cold winter led to shortages. In January mines minister Hans Vijlbrief ordered production to be restarted for two days during a cold snap, a decision that was criticised by local campaigners.

Vijlbrief welcomed the senate vote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “Groningers finally have the security they deserve”.

Three parties in the upper house – Forum voor Democratie, JA21 and 50Plus – voted against closing the gas fields, but the three parties involved in talks to form the next government – VVD, BBB and PVV – all supported the law, after voting for a delay two weeks ago.

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