Britain's Environment Agency reports that it has granted permits to shale gas firm Cuadrilla to carry out exploration at a site in northwest England.
A nearly 60% drop in oil prices since June may reduce the incentive for companies to hunt for shale gas, which competes with oil in areas such as home heating. In the United States, some small oil and gas exploration firms have suspended operations.
However, a Cuadrilla spokeswoman said the company was still at the exploration stage and the low oil price did not impact its plans.
Britain is developing shale gas extraction to counter a decline in energy resources from the North Sea. Concerns about the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, used to extract such gas have caused local protests in a densely populated country.
The permits set out the conditions Cuadrilla must follow to protect groundwater, surface water and air quality at the firm's four-well site at Preston New Road, Lancashire, and to ensure the safe storage, management and disposal of waste.
"After completing a rigorous assessment of Cuadrilla's application and the public consultation responses, we are confident the permits issued will ensure people and the environment are protected," Steve Molyneux, the agency's environment manager for Lancashire, said in a statement.
"The right controls are in place to manage waste and the flaring of gas safely, and protect local water resources," he added.
Adapted from press release by Joe Green