This photo shows a Dutch farm in Groningen province, one of many buildings damaged by earthquakes as a consequence of natural gas extraction.
Translated from Dutch NOS TV:
Government made secret agreement on gas in Groningen
which each own 50% of the shares in the NAM corporation which extracts gas in Groningen
in 2005 made a secret deal with a senior official at the Ministry of Economic Affairs about the long-term level of gas production. That agreement has not been shared with parliament. This is evident from documents obtained by the NOS with an appeal to the Open Government Act.
The secret agreement is remarkable, because until today there still is a debate about the level of gas production in Groningen. Opponents have been argueing for years that the gas production needs to go down much further because of problems with earthquakes in Groningen.
The Open Government Act documents state that the Director General for Energy of the Ministry made that agreement with the oil companies on 26 November 2005. The Director General writes on the agreement: “There is an agreement on a long-term production philosophy for Groningen. It assumes that Groningen will produce at the current level for the next ten years, until the time (after 2020), when decline (reduction) will come naturally.”
The Lower House has only been informed about the agreements for the years 2006-2015. That already in 2005 it had been agreed to maintain production at a high level, also in the following years, until the natural gas field would be depleted, was not reported to parliament.
In 2010 an official writes in a memo that parliament “is not informed about the production in the long term.” Even though an agreement was made in 2005 “about the remaining production from the Groningen field after 2006,” according to the memo.
The agreement ensures that the government in subsequent periods has less power to reduce gas production. “This agreement limits the discretion of the minister,” writes the same official. …
The currently responsible minister, Henk Kamp [of the right-wing pro-Big Business VVD party], assumed office in 2012. Asked about the power of Shell and Exxon Minister Kamp says: “That is totally non-existent; there has been no impact by the oil corporations on the decision-making about Groningen, at any time, as long as I’m here.” …
Oil companies Shell and Exxon tried constantly over the past decade to get the level of gas production up, according to the documents. Although the Ministry of Economy was often not happy about that, the debates on the Groningen gas were often “won” by the oil companies.
Between 2006 and 2015 425 billion cubic meters of gas could be extracted from the Groningen gas field. Initially the Ministry of Economic Affairs wanted that in those years there would be less gas production, not more than 375 billion cubic meters. But after the government was bombarded with all kinds of letters and documents by the companies to increase the level, the plan went off the table, as is stated in the documents. Ultimately, the level was raised to 425 billion cubic meters.
Finger in the pie
According to the former Inspector General of the State Supervision of Mines, the regulator of the gas, the documents confirm that Shell and Exxon “have an incredibly thick finger in the pie in The Hague government decisions,” said Jan de Jong.
The documents were obtained by the NOS to get an answer to the question why precisely in 2013 so much gas was extracted in Groningen. In 2013 there was the highest annual production in 30 years. But just at the beginning of that year, the State Supervision of Mines had urgently recommended to bring the gas production down as quickly as possible, because of the earthquakes caused by gas extraction.
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