Labour has called for a temporary halt to drilling for shale gas until assessments have been done to make sure the process for extracting it is safe.
Shadow Energy Minister Huw Irranca-Davies has written to Energy Minister Charles Hendry and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne urging them to put a temporary halt on extraction of shale gas and coal-bed methane while the Energy and Climate Change Committee completes its inquiry into the issue.
Exploitation of the natural gas in the UK is beginning near Blackpool, Lancashire, but campaigners have raised concerns that the process of extraction could contaminate local groundwater.
Mr Irranca-Davies said the form of energy production was new to the UK, and could have potential for future energy security and affordability.
"But ministers cannot turn a blind eye and sacrifice our natural environment, or compromise on our climate change targets,” he said.
In the US, some residents in areas where drilling for shale gas is taking place can set fire to their drinking water and have become ill because of pollution by gas and chemicals, according to Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland.
The gas is found in shale formed from deposits of mud, silt, clay and organic matter.
It is extracted by drilling down and then horizontally through the ground and then by “fracking”, a process of hydraulic fracturing of the shale using high pressure liquid containing chemicals to release the gas.