By Bryan Walsh, Ecocentric – TIME.com, Aug 11, 2011 — There are many questions surrounding the practice of shale gas drilling—and especially the hydraulic fracturing methods used to get the gas. But it really all boils down to one issue: trust. Do Americans trust gas companies to drill in a responsible way and minimize the risk of any accidents or contamination? And perhaps more importantly, do Americans trust the government—state and federal—to responsibly regulate shale gas companies, and even stop drilling if it turns out that the environmental cost exceeds the potential benefits?
When I spent time in northeastern Pennsylvania in March for our cover story on shale gas, it became clear very quickly to me that trust was lacking in the towns most affected by fracking. People who had wells drilled on their property—especially those who later had problems—didn’t trust the gas companies to be honest about the potential risks, and they didn’t trust the state and local government officials to be on their side. The industry itself was of little help. Drillers generally refused to reveal theingredients in their fracking fluids—which only stokes public concerns—and their idea of communication seemed to consist of propagandistic TV commercials and relentless pro-industry websites. But they weren’t alone—some in the environmental community were willing to push the facts and take their own criticisms of shale gas drilling much too far. . . .