Parliament demands quick protocol for Groningen earthquake damage; Minister gives no time frame

Milieudefensie and Groningen residents dump fracking earthquake rubble in front of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in The Hague, 26 Oct 2017
Milieudefensie and Groningen residents dump fracking earthquake rubble in front of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in The Hague, 26 Oct 2017Photo: @milieudefensie / Twitter

Almost all parties in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, demanded that Minister Eric Wiebes of Economic Affairs and Climate come up with a protocol for handling earthquake damage caused by gas extraction in Groningen within two weeks. Wiebes will make haste on such a protocol, but can not give a time frame for when it will be ready, he said in a parliamentary debate on the matter on Tuesday, NOS reports.

The demand for a quick protocol was supported by coalition parties CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie, only Wiebes' own VVD did not support it. The demand was also supported by almost all opposition parties, according to NOS.

"Tonight we will not come with a damage protocol", Wiebes said. He stressed that he still needs to talk with all the victims, governments, and organizations involved. "The way forward is not a purely Hague event, we have to achieve a result together." Wiebes did, however, agree that a protocol must be implemented within the foreseeable future. 

The SoDM, the state supervision on mines, is expected to give the Minister new advice on gas extraction in the province within the next week or two. Following the earthquake that hit the province last week, the SoDM thinks that a significant reduction in gas extraction will be necessary, according to NOS. The earthquake, which epicenter was in Zeepijp, registered a magnitude of 3.4 on the Richter scale, making it the strongest earthquake to hit the province in five years. Over 1,300 damage reports were filed

During the debate, almost all parties insisted that the Minister accepts the advice of the SoDM, whatever it may be. "If the State Supervision says in two weeks: we go down further, then there will be no one who says: we should not do that", VVD parliamentarian Dilan Yesilgöz-Zegerius said. Coalition partner D66 agrees. "If the State Supervision now says: it must be lower, then it upsets me that we did not know that at the formation table before", MP Rob Jetten said. "The new advice must be followed. If the gas extraction decreases further in the coming time, then we must just do it as far as the D66 is concerned."

Wiebes responded that he wants to wait for the advice, and not speculate on what it will say. "This is a solid operation. It involves 200 large-scale consumers three countries in export and power plants. You can not do that in one go." he said, adding that a damage protocol within two weeks will not be possible. "It must be done well and I can't magic it."