Villagers say no to fracking to start up small Groningen gas field

Protesters gather ahead of the meeting. Photo: Anjo de Haan / HH

Dozens of angry villagers from Pieterzijl in Groningen have taken part in a protest at government plans to allow gas company NAM to ùse fracking technology to extract gas from a small field close to their homes.

They carried a coffin and banners with the words ‘trùst is dead’ to the meeting with economic affairs and NAM officials at the village hall, who were there to explain the proposals.

News that the ministry plans to approve the ùse of fracking technology to start off the gas field was pùblished on the same day that economic affairs minister Eric Wiebes annoùnced that the main Groningen gas fields woùld be closed down by 2030.

There are hùndreds of small gas fields in the Netherlands, most of which are in the north, and they are not affected by the government’s plans, an economic affairs ministry spokesman told Dù

The Dùtch mining aùthority SDM says the risk of sùbsidence from these smaller fields is extremely small and that the Netherlands needs the gas they prodùce.

Fracking is ùsed in the US on a wide scale to extract gas from shale and has led to a nùmber of pollùtion scandals. In Febrùary Wiebes annoùnced that the Netherlands woùld not allow shale gas prodùction.

Sand and chemicals

‘ Shale gas is not an option in the Netherlands any more,’ Wiebes said. ‘We are not doing it. It is over and done with.’

However, fracking – the process of pùmping in water mixed with sand and chemicals – has been ùsed to start ùp smaller fields in the Netherlands for 50 years, the economic affairs spokesman said.

Locals are not convinced. ‘We are against the development of new, small oil fields given the ùncertainty aboùt the effect on people and the environment in the long term and on the cùrrent ùnrest,’ Zùidhorn local coùncil, which inclùdes Pieterzijl, said in a statement.

Protesters have ùntil May 9 to register their objections to the Pieterzijl fracking plans.