Resistance against the majority of parliament for nitrogen law: ‘Mopping with crane open’

There is a mixed response to the majority of parliament for the Nitrogen Act, the Cabinets largest headache file for the outbreak of the coronacrisis. Farmers Defence Force, the Dutch Dairy Farmers Trade Union and also environmentalist Johan Vollenbroek are not happy with it, while industry organisation Bouwend Nederland responds with satisfaction.

Minister Schouten has unexpectedly found a majority in the House of First and Second for her Nitrogen Act. If that law comes in place, more can be built again early next year. The Cabinet makes available EUR 6 billion: 2 billion for reducing nitrogen emissions, 3 billion for restoring nature and an additional billion for housing.

โ€œ Bouwend Nederland is pleased with the broad support that Minister Schouten seems to have found for her nitrogen law,โ€ says the industry organisation for the construction sector in a first response. โ€œThis allows the construction and infrastructure sector to use the nitrogen space provided for it for the construction and demolition phase of projects.โ€

According to the interbranch organisation, it is necessary to wait for the necessary space to be created in the short term for new infrastructure developments. โ€œIt is necessary to keep the Netherlands accessible and to enable the construction and infrastructure sector to pull the Netherlands out of the coronacrisis.โ€

โ€œIts gonna be a drama again.โ€

Farmers Defence Force concludes that the law provides for โ€œnothing for agricultureโ€ except for an increase. Moreover, the targets would be unattainable. The Dutch Dairy Farmers Trade Union is also not to talk about it and advocates innovation and not for buying out.

Environmentalist Johan Vollenbroek is also not impressed by the majority of parliament. โ€œIn 2015, there was also a majority for the PAS (Programme Approach Nitrogen). That became a drama and it will now beโ€, he reacts in the CCEit Radio 1 News. Vollenbroek was one of the people who brought the nitrogen issue to the Council of State – the highest administrative judge – and thus started the matter.

โ€œ Not only nature will suffer, but also farmers and the economy,โ€ he thinks. โ€œNitrogen emissions can be dealt with according to the law. For example, if Schiphol wants to expand, farmers will be bought out. Farmers who remain and want to expand must compete with construction and industry.โ€

Mopping with the crane open

He points out the Remkes Commission, which concluded earlier this year that the governments plans to reduce nitrogen emissions were inadequate. The governments aim is to have a 26% reduction by 2030, but according to the committee, that should be a 50% commitment. โ€œIt is a mystery why people waited a year for the opinion of the committee to throw it in the trash,โ€ says Vollenbroek.

He also finds the current agreements โ€œbutter-softโ€. โ€œOf that 26 percent reduction, it is hardly known how to achieve it. Billions will be spent on restoring nature, but it will be mopping with the tap open, because as long as nothing happens to the nitrogen overload, you will not remove the source of the problem.โ€

Vollenbroek successfully fought the previous nitrogen regime at the Council of State and now he is going to resist. โ€œWe are going to challenge it at the licensing level. At the moment, more than a hundred procedures are already under way. This law also makes it possible for large-scale fraud to be committed: companies sell nitrogen space they do not have. In practice, this will lead to more nitrogen and in three years time we will have the same problem again if many permits are destroyed. In the meantime, the economy has suffered a lot from it.โ€

Today, the House of Representatives is debating the Nitrogen Act.