A town in the Netherlands is making history by becoming the first to in Europe to definitively cut ties with fossil fuels companies in a move the industry hopes isn’t going to turn into a Europe-wide trend.
A local court in the Dutch town of Boxtel has raised the stakes for fossil fuels in Europe, ruling against an earlier decision to allow test-drilling for shale, while officials say the town will divest shares in some 200 fossil fuels companies.
Boxtel is a small town in the south of the country and only one of three others where shale exploration was being considered. In August, local authorities asked the court to withdraw the shale gas exploration license of UK-based Cuadrilla, saying too little was known about the potential environmental and health effects of fracking.
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The Dutch government was hoping to begin test-drilling in Boxtel and two other locations in the second half of 2014, and had issued a report in August suggesting that risks associated with fracking could be managed under existing laws.
But the local court agrees with the municipal authorities.
In September, Boxtel became one of the first of 100 municipalities to temporarily ban fracking pending further research into the potential impacts. The temporary ban—a minimum of 18 months--came after Dutch bank Rabobank announced it would not lend money to businesses involved in shale gas extraction due to the environmental risks involved.
In late October, the local court ruled that the local authorities were wrong to give the green light to test drilling for shale.
Local government officials have also said the town will divest from over 200 oil, gas and coal companies in which it has shares.
Cuadrilla said it is disappointed by what it categorizes as a delay, but emphasizes it is confident the research will reassure locals that fracking is not dangerous.
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The Netherlands has one of the lowest shares of renewable energy in Europe. However, the government has set a 14% renewable energy target by 2020, to be achieved through the development of more wind farms, biomass and biofuels.
Local authorities in Boxtel have also announced they will hold a conference in December with municipalities across the country and Europe to urge them to “go fossil free” and dump their coal, oil and gas holdings.
Similar action has already been launched in France, while in the UK, London’s Brent council has said it was seeking to ban fracking in the borough.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com