On shaky ground

June 06 2015

Dear listservians,
I would like to tell you something about the area where I live. I live in the city of Groningen in the northern part of the Netherlands. Groningen is a medium-sized provincial city (200,000 inhabitants) and the capital of the province of Groningen. If you are visiting the Netherlands, travel to the North, it's definitely worth it. Groningen is a beautiful old city and the province has many small picturesque villages with ancient churches, famous organs, and a beautiful landscape.

In our province a very large natural gas field was discovered in 1959. For decades, billions of cubic meters of natural gas was pumped by a joint venture between the Dutch state and Exxon and Shell (NAM). It has brought the Netherlands wealth, but Groningen remained the poorest region of the country.
In the eighties the earth began to protest, when the first light earthquakes were felt. In subsequent years, the earth trembled more and more, and more intense. In 2013, this happened about 130 times. As a result, houses, farms, churches and schools increasingly get cracks and some buildings are beyond repair, which caused people to leave their residence. Residents are afraid for the moment that a real hard earthquake will demolish buildings. They can’t sell their houses and leave, because nobody wants to buy them.  
Those responsible have denied for decades there is a link between earthquakes and gas extraction.  They have ridiculed scientists who claimed this. Now it can’t be denied any longer and the NAM is willing to compensate the damage. The company takes the view that people will take abuse of the possibility to get money, so they first want to make sure that the damage is caused by the tremors and not by poor maintenance. This causes lengthy procedures that drives people to despair.
The government has long ignored the problems. The proceeds of the gas were too high and the safety of the people was not taken care of. 
Slowly but surely this is changing and since last year there is more attention and money to tackle the problems. The gas extraction is slightly reduced.
I hope that the proponents of shale gas fracking listen to this story, because there are many similarities. Especially emphasizing only the positive aspects of the gas extraction and playing down the disadvantages. This is what happened for years in Groningen.

Having said this, I want to emphasize that Groningen is much more than an area with problems. We have much to be proud of and I (and with me many others) am living with a lot of fun here. Google Groningen and you'll see what I mean. Be welcome!

[email protected]
Groningen, the Netherlands

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