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Dutch judges say no to Schiermonnikoog offshore gas plan
Photo: Depositphotos.com

A permit to build a gas drilling platform in the North Sea off the coast of the island of Schiermonnikoog has been torn up by judges in The Hague because of the potential damage to nature.

The court ruled that it is not clear what the impact of nitrogen compound emissions associated with the rig and gas extraction will mean for vulnerable areas in the neighbourhood. In particular, measures to offset nitrogen emissions are not properly supported, the court said.

In addition, the court said, noise generated during the construction process could have an impact on seals and porpoise in the area.

The case was brought by several environmental organisations from the Netherlands and Germany. They say the drilling may cause irreversible damage to the Borkumse Stenen, an underwater habitat that has been left largely untouched by fishing.

The Dutch government gave the green light to the project in June 2022, despite plans to phase out the use of natural gas because of its impact on the environment. Last year, however, judges ordered the plan to be halted pending a better environmental assessment.

Ministers argue the closure of the Groningen gas fields because of serious subsidence make North Sea gas all the more important. And mines minister Hans Vijlbrief said last year reports showed all the environmental conditions were being met.

Chris de Ruyter van Steveninck, director of Dutch firm One-Dyas which will carry out the drilling, said the field and those nearby have a potential of 60 billion cubic metres of gas. The Netherlands uses 40 billion cubic metres of gas a year, Germany 90 billion.

Cleaner

‘We think that we can supply 5% of Dutch gas demand on an annual basis,’ De Ruyter van Steveninck told broadcaster NOS a year ago. ‘Local gas is cleaner, more reliable and more affordable than imported gas.’

Locals on the island, which has a population of under 1,000 are also opposed to the plan. The development site is some 20 kilometres offshore.

Parts of the project, such as the construction of a pipeline and electricity cable, were given court approval. All sides involved in the dispute have the right to appeal.

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