The U.S. Coast Guard issued a proposal on Tuesday allowing barges to carry hydraulic fracturing wastewater in bulk.
That gives energy companies an additional option for moving the chemicals to storage or reprocessing centers away from the drilling site.
Citing commercial interest in using inland waterways to bring the shale gas extraction wastewater from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to disposal locations in Ohio, Texas and Louisiana, the Coast Guard said it will grant certain vessels the right to transport the toxic chemicals on the Ohio River and other waterways.
The proposal is the subject of a 30-day public comment period. The date for when the rule goes into effect has not yet been set.
The news was reported by the Law360 blog (subscription required).
Although some bulk liquid toxic chemicals can be transported by a tank vessel if it qualifies as “listed cargo,” the Coast Guard said that provision does not cover shale gas extraction wastewater because the chemical composition of the wastewater varies from one load to another.
The wastewater, also known as SGEWW, doesn’t qualify also because it could contain radioactive isotopes like radium-226, radium-228 or other hazardous materials, according to the Coast Guard.