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Gas extraction: public perception in the province of Groningen

Research shows increasing dissatisfaction amongst local residents

What do the people who live in the province of Groningen think about gas extraction in the region? What do they think of the consequences, and how has this changed over the years? In 2013, researchers at the University of Groningen began independent research into the public perception of gas extraction in Groningen. This research was carried out in phases, and the results of research phase 6, which took place between February and May 2019, were published recently.

Residents of three regions in the province that are affected to a different extent by gas extraction were randomly selected to complete a questionnaire earlier this year. In the questionnaire, researchers Leonie Vrieling, Goda Perlaviciute and Linda Steg asked the residents for their opinions of various subjects related to gas extraction.

What was interesting in this sixth research phase was the new context in which it took place, as it followed the decision taken by Minister Eric Wiebes in March 2018 – after the end of the fifth research phase – to stop all gas extraction by 2030. A selection of the research results is briefly described below.

Opinions of gas extraction

People’s acceptance of gas extraction has decreased considerably in all three regions since the first research phase in 2013. There are, however, differences within the regions. People living in the most severely affected region, region 1 (Loppersum), are more opposed to gas extraction than people in region 2 (Bedum, Appingedam, Slochteren) and region 3 (the city of Groningen, Zuidhorn, Delfzijl).

A similar pattern is seen concerning the question whether gas extraction should stop. Compared with earlier phases, more respondents agree that it should, and people in region 1 are the most likely to agree.

Opinions of earthquakes caused by gas extraction

People’s opinions of how serious, worrying and/or dangerous the earthquakes are have remained roughly the same over the years. The respondents still find them very serious, worrying and/or dangerous, and there is little difference between the regions.

People were also asked about their risk perception regarding impacts such as physical injury, damage to their own or other people’s property and a negative perception of the province of Groningen. Most of the respondents believe these to be significant, real risks.

What emotions does this evoke? The researchers also looked into this. When it comes to the earthquakes, the main emotion expressed by the respondents in phase 6 is powerlessness. They are also disappointed, angry and indignant. They are less likely to feel optimistic, fearful or hopeful.

Trust in the parties concerned

The respondents were asked about the trust they have in (i.e. the honesty, past behaviour and competency of) the parties involved in gas extraction. These parties include NAM, the Dutch government and the province of Groningen.

The respondents found NAM to be the least honest, followed by the national government. The province was considered to be more honest and the local municipality the most honest. A similar pattern was seen regarding past behaviour, although more regional differences were seen here than for honesty.

There are also many parallels with the considered competency of the parties involved. The respondents consider NAM and the national government to be the least competent. Parties such as the local province and municipality are seen as more competent.

Compared with previous research phases, trust in NAM and the national government has decreased in all areas. There was however an increase in the respondent’s trust in the National Coordinator for Groningen.

Opinions of measures taken relating to gas extraction and earthquakes

Some of the respondents (mostly from region 1, around Loppersum) said that they had experienced earthquake damage and that they had reported the damage. Compared with phase 5, these respondents were more negative about the way in which their claims were settled, which they perceived to be poorer, less careful and slower.

The respondents lay responsibility for settling claims primarily with the national government, the municipality and the province. They considered NAM and other parties to be less responsible for this.

For the full results and more information about the research, please visit the Groningen Gas Production Research page

Last modified:16 September 2020 09.56 a.m.
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