PvdA leader: Groningen natural gas solution

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PvdA leader Samsom pleaded for 'adjusting' gas winning in Groningen to safer levels, Thursday, during his visit to Middelstum in the Groningen province.

Samsom thinks there should not be a price tag on the safety of the Groningen locals. In a response to the many questions of the few hundred concerned attendants of a meeting in the village of Middelstum, the PvdA leader hinted at the option of possibly cutting back on gas drilling, but leaving that decision up to the government.

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He thinks the government should invest more in the region, to compensate for the damages. 'It's important for Groningen to become safe once again. After years of faithful support, it's time to return the favor and put Groningen on the receiving end,' said Samsom.

Gas drilling earns the state treasury an estimated annual 12 billion euros, so cutting back will increase the budget deficit. The provincial governor in Groningen, Max van den Berg, requested 1 billion, of which 900 million is to be invested in the province. The government discussed their options Wednesday, assured of a broad support for cutting back gas drilling.

The NAM is allowed to extract 425 billion cubic meters of gas between 2006 and 2015. So far, 335 billion cubic meters have been extracted. The gas production has gradually declined since 1981, from 59 billion to 53.8 last year. The gas is sold to Gas Terra, of which 50% is owned by the Netherlands, and the other half by Shell and ExxonMobil.

Gas Terra has standing contracts with clients, some with maturities of up to several decades. 'We want to wait and see what Minister Kamp will decide before we can speculate about the consequences,' said a spokesperson for the company in response to the suggestion to maybe shutting down a well in Loppersum. 'A contract is a contract and you can't just undo it.'

It is expected that the government will decide to reduce gas drilling in Groningen sometime this year and that Groningen residents will be compensated to damages.