For more than sixty years our homes have been heated by gas from Groningen, but it has not been without danger. To this day, many Groningen residents still live in uncertainty and many questions remain unanswered. Today, the public hearings of the parliamentary inquiry into gas extraction begin. This should put an end to the mystery surrounding the massive gas profile.
The central question is: How did it come to this? The Netherlands won the first prize in 1959 when a huge gas field was discovered near Slochteren. But over the years, the dark side of gas extraction has become increasingly visible.
Countless cracks in homes, falls, falling home prices, psychological complaints and even premature deaths. The pain in Groningen is deep and confidence in the government has been damaged.
The Parliamentary Inquiry Committee headed by Representative Tom van der Lee hopes that this investigation will contribute to restoring this confidence. But the committee recognizes that “more is needed”.
The first week of public hearings should determine the impact and extent of the consequences of gas extraction. During this week, it should also become clear what important questions are out there. In the six weeks of interrogation that will take place after the summer, all these issues will be discussed in detail. Then comes the turn of other ministers, such as Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
A total of 70 people will be questioned under oath. This means that they will be prosecuted if it turns out that they are not telling the truth.
‘A government failure of non-Dutch proportions’
One issue that Groningen residents care about is the situation related to gas extraction in 2013. A year earlier, a violent earthquake occurred near Huizinge. One August evening, the earth shook more forcefully and for longer than before. In the supermarket, products fell off the shelves and residents rushed into the streets.
The earthquake was an alarm bell and caused a change in thinking. In the years prior to this, it had already become clear that the earthquakes were the result of gas extraction. However, it was still believed that they would not exceed a certain strength on the Richter scale.
SodM ignored this assumption and advised reducing gas extraction. However, in 2013, a record amount of gas was pumped out of the ground. What interests were they playing? How did this decision come?
In the ensuing years, gas extraction was accelerated, but earthquakes continued to occur. Many Groningen residents have had their homes damaged. Dealing with this has gone and it has been nothing but smooth. Also the boosting process went smoothly but no. There are still more than 20,000 homes in need of reinforcement.
Former Minister of Economic Affairs Eric Phipps described it as a “government failure of non-Dutch proportions” during a visit to the region in 2017.
What is a parliamentary inquiry?
- It is the heaviest means that the House of Representatives can use to carry out its oversight mission.
- A committee of representatives has been investigating this matter for months.
- Subsequently, private preliminary discussions are held with those involved.
- Then there are the public interrogations with the key players.
- These witnesses are under oath. So they can be sued if it turns out that they are not telling the truth.
- The purpose of the survey is to reveal the facts and find out who is responsible for the mistakes made.
- In addition, the problem is identified so that a better policy can be developed.
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