A top Dutch advisory body Wednesday ordered the Netherlands to review the extraction of natural gas from the EU's biggest gas field and cut production after a series of minor earthquakes.
The Council of State said it was overturning the decisions made by Economic Minister Henk Kamp to cut production in January and June, and ordering Kamp back to the drawing board.
"The minister will now have to make a new decision on whether gas extraction will be limited to less than the 33 billion cubic meters he permitted in June 2015," the body, which advises the Dutch government, said. It added it was also "temporarily limiting" extraction from the northern Groningen field to a maximum of 27 billion cubic meters, until the minister makes a final decision due before October 2016.
Kamp had decided initially in January to cut production from 42.5 billion cubic meters to 39 billion, and then further reduced the quota in June to 33 billion cubic meters.
More than 40 individuals and groups had appealed to the Council of State to examine the minister's decisions. "Should it turn out to be a relatively cold year, the maximum gas extraction can be raised to 33 billion cubic meters," the body added in a statement.
The Netherlands is Europe's second largest producer of natural gas. But the issue has raised alarm after a series of small earthquakes during the past few years around the Groningen field which have damaged farms and historical buildings.
The Dutch gas company NAM was forced to apologize in April after the Dutch safety board criticized both the company and the government, accusing them of thinking more about profits than the safety of residents for the past 50 years of production.