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NAM Groningen gas field earthquake politics

Where the earthquake area starts exactly and where it ends, that is hard to determine. What is certain is that the area is suffering considerably. Slit walls. Houses are unsaleable and sometimes uninhabitable.

Printed below is an English translation of an article published today by the Dutch Financial Times, Financieele Dagblad. It is about NAM Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij BV., a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil each owning a 50% share in the company responsible for the earthquake blighted Groningen Gas Field and the consequential potential bill for untold billions in damages.


Whoever comes to the helm, Loppersum becomes a construction site

Carel Grol • Economics & Politics

Hans Warink sits at the dining table and hides his hands behind his face. He, the man who talks so loudly in loud volume, falls silent. He can not talk anymore. Warink cries.

Please do not describe me as an emotional wreck, he says, number two of Loppersum Vooruit. But those earthquakes are not. His son wrote a letter about it. The cracks in my wall are not as bad as the pain described by my son, he says, the former chef and catering entrepreneur. “That leaves my heart bleeding.”

Warink calls himself black and white. That sometimes works against him. He knows that some people find him unfit for politics. But, he says, I have treated everyone with respect. And now he is four years ahead of Loppersum Vooruit in the city council. Gas production is his most important dossier.

Everyone has damage, here in Loppersum. Warink too. He had his house built himself. In a place where a ditch once ran. His son and daughter were born there. Now the house may have to be demolished. He is still in uncertainty in the coming year. While Warink tells it, he hides his face behind his hands. Again tears. ‘Excuse me.’

Not unique

The council member is by no means unique. Not in trouble with his house, not in the way he touches it. Loppersum is in the heart of ‘the area’. The region that is literally disrupted by earthquakes. Where the earthquake area starts exactly and where it ends, that is hard to determine. What is certain is that the area is suffering considerably. Slit walls. Houses are unsaleable and sometimes uninhabitable.

The claims handling is extremely difficult. People feel unsafe. Minister Eric Wiebes of Economic Affairs spoke about ‘governmental failure of un-Dutch proportions’.

It makes people powerless. A year ago, the PvdA in Loppersum still wondered who would rule in the earthquake area. The NAM? Centrum Veilig Wonen? National Coordinator Groningen? Residents of ‘the area’ do not know. Kafka on the Hoogeland, that’s what it sounds like here. Instances refer to each other, the decision-making depends on the province as a fog bank.

Nothing is separate from the gas

On March 21 there are also municipal elections in the municipality of Loppersum. For the last time: in two and a half years Loppersum will be merged with Delfzijl and Appingedam. Also municipalities that suffer from heavy earthquake damage.

Infrastructure, quality of life, mental health, according to Warink ‘nothing but nothing here is separate from the gas’. What can the local parties do then?

Warink was in the past years often at the Binnenhof: is there a bus with angry Groningers to The Hague, then chances are that he is in that bus. He knows the leaders from national politics. As a member of parliament you have to show yourself, is his conviction. But he also knows: he can not do much more. The earthquake file is above its power.

So what has his party achieved? The cultivation of medicinal weed in our own home for our own use. That was a proposal from Loppersum Vooruit. There was support for that. Warink thinks it is a risky proposal.

With one mouth

In the field of gas extraction, damage and handling, the six parties from the city council of Loppersum have decided to speak with one word. Because yes, they all want the same, regardless of the political color. Only Loppersum Vooruit recently asked, together with PvdA and GroenLinks, a guarantee that after 2019 no gas will be extracted at Loppersum.

At the Loppersum cluster, gas extraction was halted a month ago. Warink was accused of making party politics with his proposal. That did hit him. Especially since the accusations came from people who had never gone to The Hague.


Loppersum Vooruit has ‘No head office in The Hague’ as slogan, and says ‘to be clear, direct and close’. At a few houses in Loppersum the white election poster of the local party is stuck behind the window. Many more houses have posters in which they act against gas production, with cartoons in which Groningen is put away as a winged area.

Although it is unlikely that this dissatisfaction will result in a political landslide. Loppersum is traditionally a CDA municipality. The CDA is the largest in the national elections, the largest in the council and the party delivers the mayor. The 21st will not change that much.

From Grain to Banana

Of course there is protest. From Graan to Banana from the neighboring Middelstum, is a collective that tries with a wink to draw attention to the bizarre situation in the area. Villages are being demolished for half.

But what can residents do? Complain to the Centrum Veilig Wonen or the National Coordinator Groningen, but in the end these are also a-political organizations, with a bureaucracy that crushes people. Warink knows: people have lost a lot of confidence here. Recently, people with grinding wheels went to a NAM location in Leermens. It did not escalate, it was a playful action. But it is indicative of despair.

Houses for sale

On a sunny morning it is quiet in Loppersum and there are enough houses for sale. Here and there are vans. Often from contractors. Because the strengthening of the village is a colossal task. Or, like a woman in red coat who is showing off her black dog (‘Beau, not going around the corner!’), And is not interested in the coming elections: ‘Loppersum will be a construction site.’

And nobody can do anything about that.


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