While it's true, as Forbes states, that hydraulic fracturing has been in use since the 1940's, the current combined technology known as “high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing” (google “Old and New Hydraulic Fracturing: What's the Difference?”) has been in widespread use for 10-15 years at most and has been plagued with problems throughout its short history.
To wit, the PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center has culled from PA DEP records a total of 3,355 violations of environmental laws by 64 different gas drilling companies between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011. Of these violations, 2,392 violations were identified as those likely to pose a direct threat to the environment and were not reporting or paperwork violations.
Another truth in Forbes' letter is that only 0.5% of fracking fluid consists of chemicals, but let's put that number into perspective. According to Dr. Simona Perry, research scientist at the Rensselaer (NY) Polytechnic Institute: “While these chemicals typically compose less than 0.5% by volume of the hydraulic fracturing fluid, with a three million gallon fresh water consumption rate per well per day, this could result in approximately 15,000 gallons of these chemicals being transported, stored and mixed on one well site per day.”
Forbes claims that many of the chemicals used in fracturing are found in common household items. True, the report “Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing” released by the U.S. House of Representatives lists instant coffee and walnut hulls as components of fracking fluid. It also lists diesel fuel, benzene and toluene. In all, 29 toxic compounds were found in 652 different fracturing products that were either 1.) known or possible carcinogens, 2.) regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health or 3.) listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. And then there are the undisclosed substances which the industry claims are “proprietary” or “trade secrets” – the ones that doctors aren't allowed to tell anyone about under Act 13. If they were innocuous substances, the industry would not be required to disclose them to doctors as possible causes of illness.
The “mandated concentric layers of thick-walled steel pipe and cement” that Forbes extols have been a perennial problem for the industry. Cement casing violations for the first eight months of 2011 had already exceeded the total for all of 2010, according to DEP violations data. Faulty well casings have often been implicated in drilling-related groundwater contamination, including the infamous 2009 case in Dimock Twp., Susquehanna County.
Forbes claims that these cases do not exist, but that is just not true. In May 2011 the DEP fined Chesapeake Energy $900,000 for contaminating the drinking water of 16 families in Bradford County. The DEP implicated drilling in Dimock and the EPA implicated fracking in Wyoming for groundwater contamination.
Forbes cites “misinformation ignorant of the truth” behind fears and concerns regarding shale gas drilling, but this, too, is false. The reports I have cited are reliable, and only a small sampling of all that has been published. The issues are real; the concerns are many. It is not “panic and fear-mongering,” as Forbes claims. It is seeking to inject a dose of unpleasant reality into the sugar-coated pablum being fed us by the gas industry.