What exactly was investigated by the committee?
The main issues under investigation were:
- At crucial moments, how were decisions made on the extraction of natural gas in Groningen, the handling of damage claims and the reinforcement of buildings?
- What were the consequences of these decisions, whose interests were considered and what was done to safeguard the interests of the people of Groningen?
Purpose of the inquiry
The purpose of this committee of inquiry was to establish the facts and gain insight into the decision-making process surrounding the extraction of natural gas in the area, the handling of damage claims and the reinforcement of local buildings. The findings enabled the committee to arrive at a sound judgement on the entire period and to draw lessons, which can inform future decisions for the Groningen area and support the development of future policy lines.
Structure of the inquiry
The period covered by the inquiry starts in 1959, when natural gas was first discovered in Groningen. The inquiry was divided into three periods, each of which focusses on a crucial moment:
- "Post-Slochteren discovery": the promising start of natural gas extraction;
- "Post-Assen earthquake": soil subsidence and earthquakes;
- "Post-Huizinge earthquake": cutting back extraction rates (subsurface level), repairing damages and reinforcing houses (surface level).
Immediately after the committee of inquiry was established, it started to requisition written information and documents from the organisations concerned. Based on this material, the committee carried out an in-depth analysis of the facts and issues at stake.
Subsequently, the committee conducted preparatory interviews with experts and witnesses behind closed doors in order to gather additional information and confirm its preliminary findings. Public hearings were held in June, August, September and October 2022. President of the House of Representatives Vera Bergkamp took receipt of the report on behalf of the House on 24 February 2023. She has communicated the report to the Economic Affairs and Climate Policy committee so that the parliamentary debate on this matter can be prepared. This debate, during which the committee will account for the inquiry, will be followed by a debate between the House and the Cabinet regarding the report.
What is a parliamentary inquiry?
A parliamentary inquiry is the most powerful instrument the Dutch parliament has at its disposal if it wants to conduct its own investigation into a certain issue. Such an inquiry allows the House of Representatives to requisition written information, files and records from the organisations concerned and to hear witnesses and experts under oath. Anyone who is summoned by the committee is required to appear.
How is a parliamentary inquiry prepared?
On 5 March 2018, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted a motion by Mr Van der Lee MP and others calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the natural gas extraction in the Groningen area. In preparation for this inquiry, the temporary committee on gas extraction in Groningen was established on 22 September 2020. This temporary committee was commissioned to devise a research proposal to be submitted to the House of Representatives. Preparations included a visit to Groningen, during which committee members spoke with local citizens affected by the gas extraction and the ensuing earthquakes. The temporary committee's research proposal was presented to the House of Representatives on 4 February 2021. The committee of inquiry conducted its investigation according to this proposal.
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