Report says Dutch authorities, energy companies put gas revenues ahead of people's safety

An independent report into natural gas drilling that has triggered a rash of small earthquakes in the northern Netherlands says energy companies and the government put production ahead of people's safety in their decision making.

The Dutch Safety Board came to the conclusion in a report published Wednesday that was prompted by dozens of small but damaging earthquakes caused by gas drilling that have rocked the northern province of Groningen for years, causing structural damage to buildings across the region.

The board says that companies and government bodies involved in drilling, including Shell, ExxonMobil and the Ministry for Economic Affairs formed a "closed system" in which "security concerns in practice played an inferior role."

The government has in recent years cut back production in the worst-affected areas.