The Dutch government ruled out near-term commercial exploitation of gas reserves under the Wadden Sea at a cabinet meeting today, but said it might re-consider its decision in future. A spokesperson for Dutch prime minister Wim Kok told ENDS Daily that semi state-owned firm NAM had failed to give "sufficient guarantees" that full-scale drilling would not harm the region's fragile and rich natural habitats. Running between the Wadden islands and the northern coast of the Dutch mainland, the Wadden Sea is Europe's largest wetland area and has the world's largest unbroken series of mudflats. The cabinet was supposed to have ruled on NAM's request for a commercial drilling licence last week, but postponed the decision after failing to reach agreement. The government's position is that commercial drilling will only be allowed in the area if NAM, which is part-owned by petroleum majors Shell and Esso, could prove that drilling would not cause irreparable damage to the Wadden Sea environment. The main risk of impacts came through possible sea bed subsidence, Mr Kok's spokesperson told ENDS Daily.
Dutch prime minister's office, tel: +31 70 356 4000
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