Groningen gas questioned

Dutch parliament passes motion demanding joint venture disprove Groningen earthquake link

The Dutch parliament has decided to reverse the standard burden of proof over claims gas extraction at the Groningen field has caused earthquakes, Reuters report.

The decision requires the joint venture operating the Groningen field – including Shell, Exxon and the government itself – to disprove any claims brought against it by residents for damage as the result of earthquakes, rather than claimants needing to prove their case.

Local government estimates say that nearly a quarter of a million buildings in the area could have been damaged by tremors caused by gas extraction at the Netherlands’ biggest gas field. The cost to compensate owners of damaged buildings, and to strengthen buildings against future tremors, could cost €30bn in the coming 30 years.

In February the country’s safety board found that the government did not consider the damage that could be caused by earthquakes from gas extraction. 196 earthquakes were caused in the previous two years, a report by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs earlier this month said.

According to the Minister for Economic Affairs, Henk Kamp, 92% of claims submitted for damages due to earthquakes near Groningen this year have been approved. The Dutch high court demanded production at part of the field was temporarily halted earlier this month.

This change in the burden of proof required indicates that the government believes earthquakes in the Groningen region are caused by gas extraction at the giant field – and could prove costly for the joint venture operators.

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