A paper by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research warns that further research on the environmental impacts of the drilling procedure is needed before a green light is given to any projects.
But the UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change has accepted assurances from Cuadrilla that their operation in the Bowland shale, just four miles from Blackpool, Lancashire, will cause no environmental damage.
The company now appears poised to drill further into what it calls the first true shale gas find in Europe.
Environmentalists expressed concern that calls for a ban were going unheeded. "It is absolutely dangerous because they are using technology which is not proven yet," said Darek Urbaniak, extractive industries campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe.
"With shale gas exploration you need to crack the rock underground using special chemicals and drill horizontally and continuously. Parts of the chemicals could get into underground drinking water sources," he said.
In New York State, a temporary ban has been imposed on shale gas production after an incident of ground water contamination. A new film, 'Gaslands', shows homeowners in the state turning on their water taps and igniting the gas that comes out in areas where shale is being extracted.
Other reports from the US have depicted polluted water killing trees and contaminating land. But shale gas has transformed the American energy market and sent prices spiraling downward. European gas prices are currently much higher.
EU sees shale gas as an opportunity
A European Commission representative gave a broadly positive reaction to the news.
"We believe that shale gas is an opportunity," Marlene Holzner, spokesperson for EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, told EurActiv. "We need gas and gas demand will increase over the years so if we're able to extract this gas, it will help us to rely less on imports."
She added that this need had to be balanced against "environmental concerns" and dismissed fears raised by the report's author, Kevin Anderson - a climate change professor at the University of Manchester - that shale gas could delay the introduction of renewable alternatives.
"We have already launched a legal study - based on field studies - which should clarify whether our existing environmental legislation fully covers the drilling for shale gas," she said.
The study is still at the public tender stage and no release date has yet been set. But Holzner sterssed that in the interim, existing environmental laws had to be respected at the national and European levels.
"To rule out that there are loopholes in existing environmental law, we will be watching this study to see if we have to come up with additional environmental legislation," she said.
The Commission clearly believes it has time on its side. For all the drilling and associated unease, it could take between two and four years before gas is produced in significant quantities in Blackpool.