Former Member of Parliament Van Tongren: I and the whole assembly have failed
Former MP Lisbeth van Tongren (GroenLinks) looks back “sadly” to the years she was in charge of the gas dossier in Groningen. While questioned by the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee in The Hague, she said that she, like the rest of the House of Representatives, had “failed” to do something about the problems in Groningen. Many attempts have been made. For example, it submitted about ninety proposals and amendments on gas extraction, but often did not receive support from the rest of the House of Representatives.
Van Tongren, who is now an alderman in The Hague, was a member of Parliament from 2010 to 2018. In 2013, after the severe earthquake in Huizinge, she and fellow party member Jesse Claver put forward a proposal calling for then-Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp (VVD) To close the gas tap as quickly and as tightly as possible, only. Similar to what was recommended by the State Mine Control Authority. Meanwhile, Camp announced that he would not interfere with gas extraction, but first wanted to wait for the results of fourteen investigations. Van Tongren said the only party that supported GroenLinks’ proposal was the Animals Party. By everyone else, she was ‘cornered’ as the ‘flower girl’ who made a ‘ridiculous request’. “I didn’t laugh too hard, but it was close.”
“Looking back, you always want to do more,” said Van Tongeren, who was questioned by panelists Barbara Kathman (PvdA), Judith Tillen (VVD) and Hollya Catt (D66). As a Member of Parliament, but also with the entire House of Representatives, I failed on this file. We were not able to bring about sufficient change in time as the supreme organ of our democratic constitutional state.”
One of the problems Van Tongren faced was the lack of support in the Chamber of Deputies. In 2010, the GroenLinks faction still had ten deputies and had access to “one and a half supporters”. In 2012, the group had shrunk to four, and had to make do with “half to three-quarters of supporters” while in the meantime doing “a quarter of the bags the House handles”.
This also ensured that it was not discovered in early 2013 that a historic amount of gas had been extracted. This was stated in a footnote on page 29 of the annual report. “If I had ten employees, I would know it.”
According to Van Tongren, “it was incredibly complicated for MPs to understand the information provided” because the way the reports were being prepared was constantly changing. When MPs had just understood how the Richter scale worked, the reports suddenly spoke of something completely different: the degree of ground acceleration. “I actually needed an amateur geology degree to be able to follow it up a bit.”
During her interrogation, the former deputy wore a necklace in the shape of Groningen County. When asked how she looks at the gas coil, she said, “Sadly. It also makes me emotional.”
CVW director: ‘We strengthened 23 of the 3,000 planned homes’
In 2015, he had started as Director of Structural Reinforcement at the Center for Safe Living (CVW) within two weeks before the number of damage reports rose to 600. While CVW was expected to receive a maximum of 600 damage reports in three months. “We immediately fell in love with the cake with two big earthquakes,” Jan Emmo Hut told the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee in The Hague on Monday with a sense of irony. The number of operators at CVW was immediately raised from six to more than thirty.
CVW was created in 2015 on behalf of NAM Gas Extractor, to repair damage to homes and strengthen buildings so that people can leave their homes alive in the event of a severe earthquake. But the assignments given to CVW were unrealistic from the start. The number of damage reports was much higher than expected and a contract to boost 3,000 homes in 2015 was impossible, according to Hutt. In 2015, only 23 of these 3,000 homes were enhanced. “But then there was no air of standing up on the pulpit and saying it wasn’t possible.”
Frustration among Groningers
In 2019, CVW was shut down and the government took over the damage handling and reinforcement process, so that the process would be faster and easier. Despite this, the boosting process is still very slow. Of the 27,000 homes that may need a boost in the area, more than three-quarters are still in the start-up stage. One argument often put forward for this is a lack of capacity: there will be too few specialists for a massive operation. Nonsense, according to Hut. “There has always been enough executive capacity to this day.”
The slow handling of damage and reinforcements led to frustration among some Groningers. Often this anger was directed at CVW, he summed up the hut: the CVW building was once occupied, and during a theater performance it was pushed away during intermission by angry residents, and in the office in the office there was a red button that employees could use. Pressure against physical threats. Hut: “At first, a lot of people were proud that they worked at CVW, but at some point they stopped talking about it at birthdays or along the football field.”
Spiritual Caretaker: You Can’t Recover from Concussions
Her parents’ house is damaged – a building less than thirty years old. And her grandparents’ house cracks. “Damage and cracks created after earthquakes,” Melissa Dells said. She noticed that her grandfather could not handle it, and became restless, agitated. He couldn’t handle the “legal troubles” surrounding resolving the damage alone.
Melissa Dills has faced the consequences of gas extraction in Gronings-Lupersme up close. She became a spiritual advisor (2018-2021) in the area after her studies. She told the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry in The Hague on Monday, because there are many people like her grandfather, who did not hear, did not hear or could not put their suffering into words.
The commission wanted to know what earthquakes, damage to homes, and bureaucratic red tape were doing to the residents of the area. This leads to a “social divide” in the villages, Dills said, because the neighbor gets compensation and the neighbor doesn’t. Or one has to wait years for their home to be consolidated, while the other actually owns a new home. “The better you know the legal path or you can negotiate, the better you can get it done,” Dills said. “It’s unfair, but that’s how it works.”
But also on a personal level, tremors and everything around them do damage. Dills said people have “fear and anxiety” after earthquakes. In the long run they are “emotional, introverted, out of control and have poor focus. People feel heavy and overburdened, literally, we have seen people change their attitudes.”
Attention to youth
Dells made a plea in 2019 for more attention to young people, because that group lives with earthquakes longer than without them. They believe that it is normal to treat citizens in this way, not to keep promises, and that the procedures are long and complicated. Young children lose faith in everything around them. Don’t vote anymore, because it doesn’t make sense, don’t listen to their teacher or master because this is an authority and they can’t be relied upon.”
Dales is concerned with this group: “Young people are not the problem. But the system around it must behave in a healthy way in order for the mentality to change.”
Because the problems in Groningen are far from resolved. “First, the integrity of the stone must be ensured, before you can work on mental integrity.” And both will take years. Just like jerks. This is not an accidental disaster, but a recurring one. The difference is that you cannot recover, because there is another earthquake after the previous one.”
Finally, the committee asked what touched her most, after years of working in the earthquake zone as chaplains. In a welfare state like the Netherlands, people feel like second-class citizens. Because money and voters are more important than people. And that is the case to this day.”
Welcome to this blog
Welcome to this blog on the Parliamentary Inquiry into Gas Extraction in Groningen. Norwegian Refugee Council Here reports on the most important news from the inquiry’s hearings. The first week of interrogation occurred at the end of June, and after eight weeks of summer recess, public inquiries resumed at the end of August. In total, the commission hears about seventy people. This week the committee will also make a working visit to Groningen: members will speak with students in different schools.
The week begins with a questioning of Melissa Dills, spiritual advisor in the Groningen earthquake area between 2018 and 2021. Later in the week, members of the House of Representatives, such as PvdA member Jan Vos (2012-2017) and Liesbeth van Tongeren of GroenLinks (2010-) will also be discussed. 2018). They were energy portfolio spokesmen at a time when gas extraction from Groningen was ramped up, even after the strongest earthquake to date was measured at Huizinge in 2012. William Morlag, deputy in Groningen between 2009 and 2015, will also attend this week for the duration of the commission.
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