Sunday 18 April 2021

NAM says criteria for damage claims in Groningen quake zone are ‘too strict’

A condemned and shored-up cafe in Zeerijp. Photo: Graham Dockery

The company in charge of gas extraction in Groningen is disputing thousands of claims for damages by homeowners because it says the government’s criteria are too strict.

The NAM, a joint venture set up by Shell and Esso in 1947 to exploit the Netherlands’ natural resources, said the risk to safety had been exaggerated ‘by a factor of one to ten thousand’ in some cases.

It said the vibration limits used to assess if damage to homes was the result of earthquakes were too low and also queried the costs of processing the claims.

‘Everyone understands that there is no damage caused by slamming a car door too hard or from passing lorries,’ the company said in a statement. ‘We believe that this has led to thousands of damage claims being wrongly attributed to earthquakes.’

More than 9,000 claims for damages have been submitted by people who say their houses have been damaged by earthquakes caused by gas extraction. More than 1,000 quakes of up to 3.6 on the Richter scale have hit the province since 1986.

In 2018 the government agreed to stop gas production by 2030, having previously promised to scale back extraction. The cost of compensating homeowners, which is estimated to amount to €8.5 billion, is being borne by the government, which plans to reclaim some of the money from the NAM.

Bas van ‘t Woud, minister for economic affairs in the caretaker government, said the cabinet was prepared to take legal action to ensure homeowners were properly compensated.

‘I will be strictly supervising to make sure that all costs that can be charged to the NAM will be charged,’ he said.

Last week the public prosecution service, which is assessing whether to bring charges against the company, said it had found no evidence that people’s lives were at risk from the earthquakes or that the NAM had acted in a ‘deliberately criminal way’.

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