Calls for Dutch PM to resign after parliamentary inquiry finds government chose profits over people in Groningen gas scandal

The parliamentary inquiry also called for a compensation fund to be set up for the victims of earthquakes caused by gas production in the region

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke
FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, file photo, a protester holds a banner reading "The Hague Billions, Groningen To Shreds" as thousands of people take to the streets in Groningen, northern Netherlands, to protest against gas extraction and related earthquakes. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, file)

An overwhelming 83 percent of respondents in a recent poll published by the De Telegraaf newspaper believe Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte should resign after a parliamentary inquiry concluded on Friday that his administration put profits before people and ignored the risks of gas production in Groningen for years, causing misery for people living in the area.

The damning report described how the Rutte government had permitted multinationals like Shell and ExxonMobil to extract natural gas at what is the largest gas field in Europe located in the Groningen province, and had gravely underestimated the devastating impact the practice would have on the community.

The report, which followed a two-year investigation into the activities conducted by energy giants for decades, found that residents had been “structurally ignored” for decades “with disastrous consequences.”

The activity by gas giants resulted in an earthquake and hundreds of tremors that left thousands of homes structurally unsafe.

“Gas extraction in Groningen was so successful and lucrative for the Dutch government, Shell and ExxonMobil that little attention was paid to the long-term risks and ever-growing signals about adverse effects that the people of Groningen had to deal with,” the report stated.

It further recommended a compensation scheme for those affected, stating “the Netherlands has a debt of honor to the people of Groningen.”

“These are hard and painful conclusions,” Rutte told a news conference in response to the report’s findings. “They make clear there is a lot to do to help the region and to hopefully restore trust,” he added.

The government confirmed last month it plans to cease production from the Groningen field by October next year, despite attempts by the gas grid operator to delay its closure due to the ongoing energy supply issues sparked by the conflict in Ukraine.

The government’s response, however, appears to have done little to appease the vast majority of the electorate, with 83 percent of respondents in a recent poll calling for Rutte and senior government officials to resign over the matter.

“Immediately resign, Rutte and associates! They failed miserably and did not take the Groningen people seriously. They should have repaired the damage much sooner,” one voter told De Telegraaf.

“Scandalous how people in Groningen are treated. The resignation of the cabinet would certainly be a good gesture, but Rutte has absolutely no intention of doing so, he will turn his back on it as always,” added another.

“The Rutte cabinets have caused so much misery! New elections are the only option. Confidence in the cabinet and the administrative culture has completely disappeared, and this coalition is not going to restore that,” said a third.

Some, however, believe the criticism aimed at Rutte is unjustified. One voter told the newspaper: “Rutte is blamed for everything, I think that is unjustified. And those responsible ministers years ago? They all have butter on their heads, including the opposition. And now everyone is complaining that he has to leave. Everyone is to blame, including us as consumers!”

Others also highlighted the ongoing energy crisis and the war in Ukraine, claiming: “We need the gas badly!”

The Dutch government has announced its intention to respond in detail to the findings of the parliamentary inquiry, but has yet to provide a timeline for its official response.

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