Earthquake update: Dutch look to stop gas extraction faster

Eric Wiebes (Photo: Commons). (Eric Wiebes (Photo: Commons))

​The Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy Eric Wiebes announced that he intends to accelerate the process of decreasing the gas production in Groningen. The minister made the declaration shortly after a relatively strong earthquake, caused by removing natural gas from the ground in the region, shook the province Monday afternoon, according to FD.

Wiebes wants the gas extraction lowered to the minimum during the current administration, which is planned to stay in power until scheduled national elections in 2021. The government agreement provided for a reduction of gas production from 21.6 billion to 20 billion cubic meters, but a more rapid decrease is also possible, the VVD minister said. "This scenario should make it evident which direction we have to take,"Wiebes told RTV Noord, adding, "we all know that the structural solution would be lower extraction levels".

Several political parties are pressing to meet with the minister, who announced he also plans to publish a new damage protocol.

At 3.4 on the Richter scale, the 3 p.m. earthquake on Monday was the heaviest in the last five years, according to data from national meteorological agency KNMI. The epicenter was located near Zeerijp, KNMI said, and over 300 damage report claims were filed by Tuesday morning. The most powerful quake ever registered centered in Huizinge, a town just seven kilometers west of Zeerijp. It took place on August 16, 2012, and was of magnitude 3.6 on the Richter scale.

Most of the earthquakes in this region are caused by the extraction of gas from the soil by NAM, a Dutch public-private fossil fuel firm. Since the first quake in the region in 1986, the KNMI registered around 2000 earthquakes. Only 12 of those were stronger than magnitude 3 on the Richter scale, while the rest were around magnitude 2, many of which were barely felt by the population.

The NAM did recognize that the earthquakes come from the gas extraction, and it committed to compensate for all the damage caused, though the process has been criticized as too slow by Labour MPs.