Saturday 27 November 2021

Minister must do his homework on Groningen gas, says top court

A gas drilling site. Photo: Graham Dockery

The Council of State has given economic affairs minister Erik Wiebes one year to come up with proper arguments to support his decision to cap the extraction of gas from under Groningen province at 21.6 billion cubic metres a year.

The case was brought by a group of Groningen residents and green group Milieudefensie who said safety of locals is more important than providing income for the treasury. They wanted gas production to be drastically reduced or stopped altogether.

Hundreds of homes in the province have been damaged by earthquakes caused by the land settling following gas extraction.

At the beginning of this year, the Council of State ruled that the ministry did not have to further reduce gas volumes pending a new decision on the legitimacy of the protestors’ claim.

Now the Council of State, which is the country’s highest administrative court, has ruled that the original decision to cut production by a limited amount was not properly supported by facts.

‘The minister has so far failed to properly substantiate his previous decision to allow 21.6 billion cubic metres to be extracted per gas year over the next five years,’ the court said in a statement.

The minister should, the court said, have taken the safety of locals more into account when reaching his decision and done more to analyse the potential risks.

Unacceptable

It is ‘unacceptable’ that gas group NAM was given five years to pump up gas from the province without a proper risk analysis, the court said.

Wiebes said in a reaction that the court’s ruling was ‘strong’. ‘We have to take a new decision within a year, and we are now getting down to work,’ he said.

Milieudefensie said in a website statement that the verdict is a ‘historic victory’ for both Groningen and the climate. The ruling is a sign to the minister that we have to ‘kick our gas habit’, the organisation said.

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