Cabinet ‘poised to approve’ Wadden Sea drilling
8 June 2004
AMSTERDAM — The Dutch Cabinet is reportedly poised to give the go-ahead for gas drilling under the Wadden Sea, but environmentalists have threatened court action if a decision is taken without further consultation.
Most ministers are reportedly in favour of allowing gas drilling in the coastal area to the north-west of the Netherlands and are also expected to set up a special fund for environmental protection. The fund will also be used to buy out the cockle industry.
Sources have said that the size of the investment fund — along with a various other minor matters — must still be hammer out in the final negotiations. But the sources also said on Monday the Cabinet is expected to approve the gas drilling on 25 June.
Christian Democrat CDA Agriculture Minister Cees Veerman also said on Monday night there was “a growing consensus” in favour of gas drilling. He also refused to confirm suggestions that EUR 500 million will be allocated to the environment fund.
Environment Minister Sybilla Dekker and Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst discussed on Friday the Wadden Sea area and an investigative report recently compiled by the AGW commission. Veerman — who was visiting Eastern Europe last week — was represented by a top public servant.
The commission advised the government in April that gas drilling should be allowed in the Wadden Sea area. It urged for drilling to be conducted at an angle downwards from the mainland and advised for the establishment of an environment fund.
But despite the growing consensus in favour of drilling, Veerman also stressed that no Cabinet decision had been made and that it can still vote against gas extraction operations in the environmentally sensitive region.
It is also intended that cockle fishers in the Wadden Sea region can also apply for compensation from the environment fund.
Chaired by Labour PvdA MP Wim Meijer, the investigative commission advised the shell fish industry in April that it must convert to environmentally-friendly operations within seven years, but the prospect of that occurring is small raising the prospects that the region’s cockle industry will be shut down.
Since April, a majority of MPs have been in favour of gas drilling in the Wadden Sea after ruling coalition parties CDA and Democrat D66 abandoned their previous objections. The Liberal VVD and populist LPF have previously backed the mining proposals.
Main opposition party Labour PvdA was and remains an opponent to gas drilling in the Wadden Sea, as is green-left GroenLinks, which claims they breach European conservation regulations. GroenLinks believes the drilling could breach bird and habitat guidelines, but political sources in The Hague have not expressed concern.
Environment groups strongly criticised Minister Veerman’s comments, labelling them at best “careless”.
According to spokesman and Waddenvereniging (Wadden Association) director Hans Revier, further studies must be conducted by environment research bureau Alterra and the Government Institute for Coast and Sea. “That (research) was not finished on Friday,” he said.
Revier also said that negotiations must still take place between government ministers and environmental groups before a Cabinet decision can be made. If the decision is not made via the formal road and agreements are not adhered to, the issue could end up in court, Revier warned.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news