Just 50 not 26,000 homes in the Groningen earthquake area need strengthening to comply with the latest safety standards, according to Johan Atema, director of gas company NAM in the NRC.
So far 2,000 homes have been strengthened because they are vulnerable to the quakes, caused by the ground settling after natural gas has been extracted. And only half the 26,000 homes identified as being problematic have actually been inspected.
Nevertheless, says Atema, this work is not needed because the risk of a serious earthquake is much smaller now drilling for gas has been cut right back. ‘The strengthening operation is no longer necessary,’ he told the paper.
Both the economic and home affairs ministries have told the NRC this conclusion is ‘premature’. A house has to be inspected before it can be determined whether or not it meets the safety standards, a spokesman said.
Gas extraction in the region is due to be completely phased out by 2030 but former economic affairs minister Erik Wiebes has hinted at an earlier date.
Atema said NAM only wants to pay for damage which can be directly attributable to gas extraction. ‘If we end up in a legal dispute I would not really mind,’ Atema told the paper. ‘I would like objective arbitration about this.’
NAM no longer has a role in deciding which homes need work, but does have to pick up the bill for all the damage caused by gas extraction. Last year, the company had to fork out around €1bn.
NAM, is a joint venture set up by Shell and Esso in 1947 to exploit the Netherlands’ natural resource.
More than 1,000 quakes of up to 3.6 on the Richter scale have hit the province since 1986.
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