Council of State gives go ahead for exploratory gas drilling near North Sea island

The marina on the Dutch island of Schiermonnikoog, looking south towards the Wadden Sea (Photo: Jvhertum/Wikimedia Commons)The marina on the Dutch island of Schiermonnikoog, looking south towards the Wadden Sea (Photo: Jvhertum/Wikimedia Commons)

Update 12:30 : Shortly after the Council of State ruling, ENGIE announced that they will not be performing the exploratory drillings near Schiermonnikoog. The exploration permit will not be renewed and the environmental permits will be returned to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the company said in a statement. According to ENGIE, this decision was made after numerous discussions with a number of stakeholders and conservation organizations. 

Energy company ENGIE may perform exploratory drilling for natural gas north of the North Sea island Schiermonnikoog. On Tuesday the Council of State declared objections to the exploratory drilling unfounded. No further appeal is possible, reports.

Last year the Minister and State Secretary of Economic Affairs granted an environmental and nature permit to ENGIE for two exploratory drillings with temporary drilling platforms. This involves drilling at a distance of about 5 km and 7 km from Schiermonnikoog. The first exploratory drilling may be carried out between October 2017 and March 2018. If it shows that there is an "extractable quantity of gas", the second drilling can start in 2019.

Those who object to these drillings, including the Wadden Sea Society, feel that the responsible Minister and State Secretary should have investigated the possible effects the gas drilling would have on the area. They fear that the exploratory drilling will harm the nature on and around the island. 

But the Council ruled those objections unfounded. "In this case it specifically involves exploratory drilling to detect gas, and not the extraction of gas", the court said. Should it go over to gas extraction in the future, a separate permit will be needed. The Council also added that the State Secretary is sure that the "integrity" of the area will not be affected.

"There is plenty of research on the impact of drilling for natural gas and the animals that live in and around these areas. The impact on the landscape of Schiermonnikoog and the experience on it, the State Secretary considers limited." This has to do with the distance of the drilling platforms from the island and the fact that the exploratory drilling will happen in the winter - outside tourist season.