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Global Economy

Lawsuit against natural gas production near Borkum

A gas field is to be developed near the East Frisian island of Borkum. There is increasing resistance to this. The German Environmental Aid (DU), together with the Dutch environmental organization Mobilization for the Environment (MOB) and the citizens' initiative Clean Air East Friesland, have filed a lawsuit with the competent court, the Rechtbank in The Hague. The alliance fears that the drilling will have environmental consequences for the island of Borkum, the North Sea and the nearby Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park.

"Completely out of date"

The alliance also criticizes a prolonged dependence on fossil gas. The funding plans of the Dutch company One-Dyas are "completely out of date". "The plans have nothing to do with energy security: A small amount of fossil gas should not be promoted until 2024 at the earliest," said Sascha Müller-Kraenner, the federal director of the German Environmental Aid. On the other hand, the construction of a new platform in the North Sea will create a new infrastructure that will increase our long-term dependence on fossil energy.

Not only environmental organizations, but also North Sea islands see the project critically. The city of Borkum also wants to sue against the natural gas production. A lawsuit is expected to be filed with the court in the Netherlands on Friday. A majority of the city's management committee had previously voted in favor of a lawsuit. The lawsuit ends today.

As the NDR reports, Borkum's lawsuit argues that the drilling in the North Sea could trigger earthquakes that, in the worst case, would damage the island. Above all, the freshwater lens is in danger and with it the drinking water supply on Borkum. Pollutants could also reach the beaches. In addition, there would be a production platform within sight of the island, which could deter vacationers.

13 billion cubic meters delivery volume

The plan of the company One-Dyas and its partners is to build a platform at sea and extract natural gas from a field between the islands of Schiermonnikoog (Netherlands) and Borkum. The platform is said to be located in the Dutch territorial sea, but only about 500 meters from German sovereign waters and about 20 kilometers off the coast of Borkum.

The gas field is to have a recoverable total volume of up to 13 billion cubic meters of natural gas. Together with other surrounding areas, a total of up to 60 billion cubic meters is suspected, around half on German territory. For comparison: the capacity of the natural gas storage facilities in Germany is around 23 billion cubic meters.

"Change takes time"

On the Dutch side, the authorities gave the green light for funding at the beginning of June. According to the responsible Ministry of Economics in The Hague, the possible effects on the environment were examined. The submitted plans met all preconditions. Nevertheless, the conditions had been tightened because of the concerns of environmentalists, it was said at the time.

One Dyas CEO Chris de Ruyter van Steveninck said the transition to 100 percent renewable energy would take time. Natural gas will therefore also be part of the energy mix in the coming decades: "As long as natural gas is needed, it is our joint task to ensure that this gas is as clean, cheap and reliable as possible."

Secure energy supply

Approval for funding on the Lower Saxony side, which according to One-Dyas can begin at the end of 2024 at the earliest, is still pending. A planning approval process is currently under way. Under the impression of the energy crisis caused by the Ukraine war, Lower Saxony's state government recently reversed an original decision against production: Because of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and dependence on Russian gas, the SPD and CDU are now pushing the project forward.

Lower Saxony's Economics Minister Bernd Althusmann (CDU) said last week that the project should help secure the energy supply. "The scenarios of the gas emergency plan clearly show us how serious the supply situation is."

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