British energy company Centrica announced Thursday it acquired a 25 percent stake in the Bowland shale natural gas exploration area in Lancashire from Cuadrilla Resources.
Centrica said it was important to look inland for more energy reserves because of declining production from the North Sea. British consumers may find relief from shale gas if it can offset a growing dependence on imports, the company said.
Jenny Banks, a climate specialist with WWF-UK, said Centrica's deal was a step in the wrong direction.
"Centrica doesn't mention the main problem with shale, namely that chasing after yet more fossil fuels is completely incompatible with efforts to keep below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming," she said in a statement Thursday.
WWF points to statements from Centrica this year suggesting there may be environmental issues associated with shale natural gas development.
Centrica Chief Executive Officer Sam Laidlaw told Greenpeace last year renewable energy is expensive. If 80 percent of British households switched from natural gas to wind, he said, consumer bills would increase more than 200 percent.
The British government enacted safety regulations for shale development last year in response to minor tremors associated with Cuadrilla's operations.