I re-read your post. It is well written and insightful, but 25 years too late. United States environmental protection is at precipice, instead of say a fork in the road as an analogy. I'm not familiar with South African environmental law so won't comment on that.
The Republican party, starting with candidate Mitt Romney, were ready to close down the US EPA. That may have been mindless bloviating to stir up the stupid, but I'll take them at their word. Many people know that at the municipality, state and federal levels, regulations protecting our food, water, land and air are being eroded, i.e. less protection. This erosion started in the late 1980s and continues to this day. The issue isn't so much that Democrats think it's bad to feed your child still bottoms and benzo (a) pyrene and Republicans think that it's only the family's responsibility. Republicans and others believe ALL regulation is bad. (Except of course regulations protecting major corporations from competition and profit erosion).
Fracking could be safe I guess. O&G believes it should be fine. Politicians hope so. Non-government organization (NGOs) focusing on environmental policy are pretty sure its fine, if that what's its major donors want.
My problem with fracking is that it's being cowboy-ed, with almost no federal oversight and a bare minimum at the state and municipality levels.
For you to make a declaration on whether fracking is environmentally OK or not - is either naive or blatantly dismissive. There has been almost no pre-drilling characterization and perfunctory at best environmental monitoring during development and operations. Simply put, there's no baseline data upon which to compare to non-existing standards. We're beyond 25 years ago - more like 40 years before NEPA, CAA, CWA, SDWA, RCRA, CERCLA etc.