Confronting the Impact of Induced Earthquakes in Northeast Groningen
This case study report analyses spatial justice in the wake of frequent earthquakes that occur in the region of Northeast Groningen, the Netherlands. These earthquakes are man-made, induced by the extraction of natural gas in the region. While they have a maximum magnitude of only 3 to 4 on the Richter scale until now, they cause severe damage due to their shallow depth of about 3 km, the instable clay underground in which they occur, and the vulnerable brick houses that were never meant to withstand earthquakes.
Spatial justice in this case concerns the consequences of the earthquakes, which are several, and which are addressed by multiple policy measures that have varied considerably over the relatively short period since ‘Huizinge 2012’. Accordingly, the Action refers not to a single policy, but to the collective of policies and other measures to assess, to compensate for and to repair earthquake damage (curative) as well as to prevent further damage (preventive).
In terms of distributional injustice, numerous damages have indeed been assessed many buildings have been repaired or reinforced. Nevertheless, these accomplishments are not nearly as many as are considered necessary. Moreover, there is widespread dissatisfaction with the way in which these have been achieved. With regard to reinforcement, uncertainty exists among home owners due to changing assessment methods of the risk for future damage, and with regard to replacement housing or to the price they receive for their house.
Regarding procedural injustice, it is important to note that while the Action primarily aims at distributional injustice, the measures taken are largely of a procedural nature. Due to uncertainties and inconsistencies that characterize the measures taken with regard to damage, reinforcement and replacement, new procedures and institutions are introduced regularly, while the existing ones mostly stay in place as well. The result by now is an extensive and highly complicated institutional framework that is experienced as being imposed on the region by the national government, and absorbs most of the time and funding available but is nevertheless widely considered ineffective, inefficient and unfair.