When deciding to stop extracting gas in Groningen, there was no reason to fear a gas shortage. But there was a war like the one now counted in Ukraine, former minister Wiebes told the parliamentary committee of inquiry for gas extraction Groningen. According to him, in 2018, there was no other choice than to end the winning. “There was no alternative.”
According to Wiebes, this looked at both the safety of Groningen people and the security of supply for consumers. Wiebes told about an emotional encounter he had with a victim:
For the safety of Groningen people, gas extraction had to stop. But Wiebes also had to ensure security of supply. “For every cube of gas that we were going to gain less, there had to be an alternative. For every billion cubic meters less, we had to have a replacement, either by building a nitrogen plant or by limiting gas exports.”
At the time, then Minister Block of Foreign Affairs urged Wiebes to make a new geopolitical analysis of international gas sources. Even then, there were concerns about Russias dependence. But according to Wiebes, the analysis showed that there were sufficient sources of gas, “we werent counting on a war at the time”.
The loss of gas benefits did not play a role in the decision to stop gas extraction in Groningen, Wiebes said. The costs of the extensive reinforcement operation that was underway in the province also played no role in the decision. “It was clear to everyone that there were major consequences for the state treasury.”
The interrogations previously discussed that the cabinet would also have played a part in stopping gas extraction would result in far fewer houses having to be strengthened for much less money. But Wiebes denies that was the reason. “Safety was the goal, strengthening homes was the means,” Wiebes said. And that safety could only be achieved by stopping gas extraction.
According to Wiebes, there is still no good idea of the number of houses that need to be strengthened and what that costs.
Wiebel spoke emotionally about a very elderly woman who showed him her guest room with cracks at home. She said she would stay there herself when her daughter visits, because she would rather get under the rubble herself than let her daughter take that risk.
Reinforcement not stopped
Wiebes contradicted that the reinforcement operation has been stopped, something that has been experienced in Groningen. “Anyone who looks at the numbers sees that the figures have doubled compared to the previous year. The estimates may have been higher, but that was the case permanently.”
He said he wanted to prevent new groups of houses from being added all the time. Thats why he had pressed “the pause button”, awaiting advice from the Mining Council and experts. “My thought was: we can keep adding houses forever, knowing that reinforcements arent going to happen anytime soon. In the short term, that might be a good approach, but in the long run, youll be a lousy director.”
Wiebes also told the committee that he did not speak to one resident who was happy that his or her house was demolished. “On the contrary, they just wanted me to prevent that. That was different from what directors told me,” Wiebes said.
According to him, the wishes of regional administrators were a major cause of the delay in the reinforcement operation. They wanted to combine the strengthening of houses with neighborhood renewal. Very understandable in itself, Wiebes said. “But the first priority for me was making homes safe and also the trust of residents.”