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VICTIMS OF SHELL/EXXON INDUCED DUTCH EARTHQUAKES

  • In 2018 it would all be well for the earthquake victims in Groningen. But again they became victims, this time from a bureaucratic swamp.

  • The underlying idea was clear: if gas extraction decreases, there are fewer quakes and fewer homes need to be strengthened.

  • The goal is that Groningen residents in the earthquake area can live safely as quickly as possible

  • A complete earthquake industry has emerged in Groningen…

  • The decision by Minister Wiebes to stop gas extraction means that he has left € 70 billion of gas in the ground.

  • A grocery mentality at the NAM, which was going to do difficult about the smallest amounts, a government that took it too long, an earthquake industry that was rigged and got the characteristics of a maze; in the end, that has all led to billions being left in the ground.

Printed below is an English translation of an article published today by the Dutch Financial Times, Financieele Dagblad. NAM is the Shell/Exxon Joint Venture company responsible for the earthquake blighted Groningen Gas Field and consequential potential bill for untold billions to deal with damaged residences.

No action but words for Groningen

BY Carel Grol: 1 JAN 2019

In 2018 it would all be well for the earthquake victims in Groningen. But again they became victims, this time from a bureaucratic swamp.

The most defining moment in the past year for Groningen was not the earthquake in Zeerijp on Monday 8 January. Not even Thursday, March 29, when Minister Eric Wiebes of Economic Affairs and Climate said: we are moving away from the gas. The actual turning point came in a meaningless Hague press room at Nieuwspoort, on Monday 2 July.

Prime Minister Rutte was visiting US President Trump that day, German Chancellor Merkel swore a government crisis, and later that evening Belgium would qualify for the quarter-final of the World Cup. Co Verdaas came into the modest room at the end of that sunny Monday morning.

Distrust and emotion

Verdaas – short hair, eloquent, in suit but without tie, light shoes – had to speak as chairman of the Mining Council. Among other things, he is concerned with the quakes in Groningen, as there are a variety of agencies that do something with what has become euphemistically called the earthquake problem.

The Mining Council came up with a recommendation that day, which was presented at eleven o’clock. Literally, day and night, the advisory body, which only a few of them had heard, had worked on it, Verdaas implored when he started his presentation after eleven.

‘There is a lot of mistrust and emotion around this file. That will not immediately repair the advice, ‘said the PvdA’er and part-time professor of area development at TU Delft. ‘We hope to offer perspective on the basis of which the government and region and residents and corporations can act together. I think that is what everyone looks forward to. ‘

From 22,000 to 1500

The advice of the Mining Council: 1,500 houses in the province of Groningen have to be strengthened immediately. 1500? Five days earlier, even during a meeting in The Hague, State Supervision of Mines had stated that 5000 dwellings did not meet the safety standard. They must be eligible for reinforcement immediately, according to SSM.

And 5000 was already considerably less than previous estimates. According to estimates in 2017, it is possible that even 22,000 homes will have to be reinforced in Groningen.

But Verdaas and the Mining Council therefore kept it at 1500 homes. In his words: “You stop that talk, you’re going to do that. ”

Healing region

Above that were thousands of houses where commitments were made and homes that meet the strict safety standards, but which fall within a so-called margin of uncertainty. Therefore, Verdaas said, it was important that ‘dialogue should be sought’. ‘The main question is: how are you going to heal the region?’

Minister Wiebes received the report. ‘I am happy with it’, he said in a very short reaction. ‘It is becoming safer and that was the intention.’ He went to discuss the report with the region.

In the question-answer section with Verdaas remained vague how the Mining Board had come to the number 1500. The underlying idea was clear: if gas extraction decreases, there are fewer quakes and fewer homes need to be strengthened. After all, the reinforcement of houses is more expensive than damage repair.

Delaying tactics

The reality half a year later. In the earthquake zone these days a series of meetings are going on about how and what of the reinforcement. The Dagblad van het Noorden follows the walk-in evenings.

The report from the crowded church in Garrelsweer, a village with a few hundred inhabitants near Loppersum, is characteristic of what is happening in the Groninger countryside. Houses that have been labelled as unsafe now do not have to be strengthened, wrote the DvhN. ‘It is a disastrous event’, said an employee from the National Coordinator Groningen. “It flies in all directions.”

Healing the region? A councillor from Loppersum suggested in the church that the reinforcement approach was a delaying tactic by the minister. The meeting included risk profiles and computer models that run on fictional data.

Earthquake industry

A whole earthquake industry has emerged in the north, with a variety of names and abbreviations, in which the National Coordinator Groningen is an important player. This is a collaboration between ten municipalities in Groningen, the province and the government.

In November, the NCG came up with a long-awaited plan of action. ‘Safety first and the resident at the center’, reported in jarring management jargon. ‘The goal is that Groningen residents in the earthquake area can live safely as quickly as possible with a clear approach.’

The Groninger Gasberaad, an umbrella organization that represents all kinds of social authorities, has serious doubts about this plan of approach. The risk model is ‘a purely technocratic top-down approach, which takes no account of societal considerations’. The question of how to restore confidence is not answered, just as questions about funding.

Gnawing uncertainty

This was the conclusion of the Gas Consultation in an open letter to all regional directors of Groningen: ‘We were all hopeful to NAM. Too many rules, too limited possibilities, too slow. We will soon have to conclude that it has only become much worse with the government in between. ‘

Just before Christmas the Vereniging Eigen Huis went over it. Almost 80% of the homeowners in the gas extraction area are negative to very negative about the approach to their problems, she reported on December 19. The VEH held a survey in the area for the fourth consecutive year. The conclusion: ‘The residents’ confidence reaches a new low.’

The week before Christmas there were still 16,381 outstanding damage reports and the reinforcement of homes is slow. But it is mainly the persistent insecurity that gnaws.

Peloton experts

From Appingedam to Zeerijp and from Nieuwolda to Nieuw-Scheemda: in all villages in the affected area the stories are the same. About arbitrariness, lack of clarity and endless waiting: between damage reporting and recovery or reinforcement are often years, because a small platoon of experts must record the damage, draw up a report and carry out a counter-expertise.

As the VEH states: “Residents are left to their fate in an unheard and unseemly way.” The vast majority do not know what happens to his house. Safe or not, demolishing or decaying, letting everything stand in the current state: in Stedum, Woldendorp and Spijk people are busy with it every day.

Half raised flag

Another finding from VEH: ‘Of the homeowners in the gas extraction area, 87% still do not know whether or not their home qualifies for reinforcement.’ 87%: only a little more than a tenth knows it.

And that years after the first earthquakes and six months after the minister received a report stating that 1,500 homes must be strengthened. In Overschild people hovered the flag at half-mast in protest against the lack of clarity about their future.

With a new enthusiastic minister who turned back gas production, 2018 should be the year that everything changed. Instead, it was painfully familiar.

TEXT BOXES

In brief

*The Mining Council advised 2 July to immediately reinforce 1,500 homes in Groningen. Opinions for this: 5000 and 22,000 homes.

*Houses that were previously labelled as unsafe need not be restored now.

*A complete earthquake industry has emerged in Groningen, with too many rules.

*Residents complain about arbitrariness, lack of clarity and endless waiting.

‘We hope to offer perspective on the basis of which others can act’ • Co Verdaas, chairman of the Mining Board

‘We will soon have to conclude that it has only got worse with the government in between’ • Open letter Groninger Gasberaad

Count out your loss

Economic interests have long exceeded the interests of a number of Groningen citizens, but that is now over. Engineering firm Van Rossum stated in April 2015: ‘152,000 homes and housing units must be strengthened on the basis of the design of the Dutch Practice Guideline.’ Costs: € 30 billion, almost two tons per house to make it resistant to damage. The decision by Minister Wiebes to stop gas extraction means that he has left € 70 billion of gas in the ground. Of course, it is not economical to explain this: an investment of € 30 billion for a yield of € 70 billion, leaving you € 40 billion. But socially it is not to explain to continue gas production: the patience of the residents is gone. A grocery mentality at the NAM, which was going to do difficult about the smallest amounts, a government that took it too long, an earthquake industry that was rigged and got the characteristics of a maze; in the end, that has all led to billions being left in the ground

SOURCE FD DUTCH ARTICLE WITH LINKS

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