Coast Guard drops plan to let barges carry frack wastewater

The following is text from a notice of withdrawal published in the Federal Register:

(WASHINGTON) — The Coast Guard announces that it has withdrawn the Oct. 30, 2013, proposed policy letter concerning the carriage of shale gas extraction wastewater (SGEWW) in bulk via barge. The policy letter proposed a new standardized process and specified conditions under which a barge owner could request and be granted a certificate of inspection endorsement or letter allowing the barge to transport SGEWW in bulk. That proposed policy is withdrawn and no new policy is proposed at this time.

Barge owners may continue to request case-by-case approval to transport SGEWW under current regulations by providing recent detailed chemical composition, environmental analyses, and other information for each individual tank barge load. The Coast Guard will consider instituting a standardized process for transporting SGEWW in bulk after it has assessed whether current regulations are inadequate to handle requests for transport of SGEWW in bulk and environmental impacts that may be associated with SGEWW transport by barge.

Comments received

Of the 70,115 comments the Coast Guard received, 68,747 comments were brief statements in similar format and wording that expressed disapproval of the proposed policy letter and expressed opposition to hydraulic fracturing. Commenters stated concerns that a spill or accident would release toxic chemicals into our rivers and could put our drinking water at risk. The Coast Guard notes the general concerns expressed in these comments, but also notes these comments expressed the writers' general opposition to the proposed policy letter without offering input regarding the substance of transporting SGEWW in bulk as described in the policy. The Coast Guard has no legal authority to permit, prohibit, or place conditions on the practice of fracking itself. The Coast Guard's only authority in this matter is the authority to evaluate the safety of SGEWW as a cargo and set conditions on its carriage by vessel.

To read the complete notice, click here.

By Professional Mariner Staff