Relief, but also distrust in Groningen after presentation of a hard report

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A house in Godlinze is being demolished due to earthquake damage
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“I must say: it touches me,” says Coert Fossen of the Groninger Soil Movement in response to the damning report of the parliamentary committee of inquiry into natural gas extraction in Groningen. Committee chairman Van der Lee presented the findings to Chamber President Bergkamp in Zeerijp.

“Not so much because of what he said, because we already knew those conclusions. But because it is now told so compactly. That gives the feeling that you are finally being heard. A sense of recognition.”

In the report, the committee of inquiry concludes that the interests of Groningen residents have been structurally ignored, with disastrous consequences, and that the Netherlands owes them a debt of honor.

Healthy skepticism

According to Fossen, the recommendations made by the committee are still fairly general, but he hopes that the report will at least provide an impulse to deal more flexibly with claims settlements. “Start solving the immediate problems of the people and with the reinforcement operation so that the people can live safely again.”

The real question, he says, is how the money will be spent and who will be responsible for it. “We think that the residents should have a very big say in this. I don’t want to sound negative, but I do have a healthy skepticism of: show it.”

See more reactions from victims here:

Groningen residents about the results of the final report of the committee of inquiry: ‘Confidence is gone’

“It is certainly recognition of the suffering,” says King’s Commissioner in Groningen René Paas. As far as he is concerned, Commission chairman Van der Lee made no bones about “that great injustice has happened here”. He hopes that “too little, too late and too bureaucratic” will now be stopped. “Go help people. If people have lost years of their lives, there is nothing you can do about it. But you can do something substantial in return.”

The necessary skepticism can also be heard at the Groninger Gasberaad. “I hope that this report will disappear in a drawer less quickly and that consequences will be drawn,” says a spokesperson. It is important that the culture changes. “It should be: you have a problem, we solve that problem.”

We kept running into a wall and now an independent committee has finally shown what that wall looks like.

Resident of Groningen

Distrust can also be heard in the reactions of many Groningen residents. On the one hand, there is relief at the recognition of the problems they have been facing for years now. “We kept hitting a wall and now an independent commission has finally shown what that wall looks like,” said a resident. “The chairman has neatly listed how Groningen people have been ignored for years,” another concludes.

On the other hand, a frequently heard reaction is: first see, then believe. For example, a resident of Garmerwolde does not think that the report will change much. “I expect Rutte to come up with heartfelt apologies and with promises that will not be fulfilled for the time being,” he says.

Most Groningen residents emphasize that now the damage must first be repaired and then the reinforcement operation must be completed “without always making new rules”.

Learning lessons for the future

Supervisor State Supervision of Mines (SodM) hopes that the report will “bring much-needed acceleration for the many people in Groningen who are still waiting for reinforcements or claims settlement”. The regulator also says that lessons can be learned from the report “for energy production and mining in a general sense, now that these are as important as ever in the light of the energy transition”.

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