Thursday 18 August 2022

Groningen gas damage is a national crisis, says ombudsman in new report


The new government needs a minister with specific responsibility for sorting out compensation for people whose property has been damaged by the Groningen earthquakes, according to national ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen.

The situation in Groningen, where thousands of homes have been damaged by quakes caused by natural gas extraction, is so acute it can be described as a national crisis, Van Zutphen said in Trouw.

Therefore, he said, the situation needs ‘a crisis organisation with perseverance… someone who says “enough is enough” and cuts through the red tape. No more research, no new procedures or rules.’

The ombudsman said too little had been done with his recommendations from 2017. Thousands of people, he said, are still waiting for compensation or help with making their houses safe. They have been sent from pillar to post and this ‘vicious circle’ needs to be broken.

Currently it is up to the economic affairs ministry to pay compensation but the home affairs ministry is responsible for shoring up homes. Local authorities, provinces and other government bodies also have a role in repairing the damage.

80% of homes in this village are being demolished

A dedicated minister, Van Zutphen said, would be able to streamline procedures and help restore the confidence of locals in national government.

Currently, he said, people don’t know where they stand. ‘One row of houses must be demolished, the other not,’ he said. ‘There is no structure in the message about what needs to be done.’

No more gas

The production of Groningen gas is currently being wound down because of the problems and from 2023 the reserves will only be accessed in cases of emergency.

More than 1,000 quakes of up to 3.6 on the Richter scale have hit the province since 1986. So far, 126,356 reports of damage caused by the quakes have been made to an official government institute set up to process claims.

Up to now, €1.15bn has been allocated to home owners and others to pay for damage.

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