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Dutch groups demand tighter curbs on Groningen gas production



screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-19-09-24A top Dutch court has received 25 appeals against the government’s decision to cap production at the Groningen gas field at an annual figure of 24 billion cubic metres from protesters who think it does not go far enough.

Several groups in the region had asked for a steeper reduction to prevent earthquakes, which have damaged thousands of structures in the northern province.

Output from Groningen, which once supplied 10 percent of demand in the European Union, has halved over the past two years after the Dutch Safety Board said the government was failing to protect citizens from earthquakes triggered by gas exploitation.

The Groningen gas field is operated by NAM, a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil Corp.

Among those bringing complaints were the province of Groningen, 19 local authorities as well as environmental groups and individuals, the Council of State said in a statement.

A request for immediate measures sought by nine of the complainants was being reviewed by a judge, it said.

The Dutch government in September adopted the preliminary 24 bcm cap imposed by Economy Minister Henk Kamp until 2021. Allowing additional output of up to 30 bcm would be considered only in the event of a harsh winter.

The complainants were given four weeks to substantiate their appeals cases, after which Kamp will be able to respond, the court said. A court date will be set in April.

Earthquakes in the region remain frequent, but none has been larger than one that hit the town of Huizinge in 2012 measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale.

Estimates for damage to buildings in Groningen range widely, with NAM so far setting aside 750 million euros ($800 million) for compensation. ($1 = 0.9337 euros)

(Reporting By Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Keith Weir)


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