The Coast Guard wants to allow barges filled with fracking wastewater to ply the nation’s rivers on their way toward disposal. Many environmentalists are horrified, but industry groups say barge transport has its advantages.I have a story about that. I used to collect samples in Baltimore Harbor occasionally. I recall several times being "on station" at a particular site just outside of the Key Bridge, and having a barge named the "Silk Lady" pass by once an hour. About 100 feet long and 50 feet wide, it would ride about 2 feet lower in the water going one direction. It was all properly labeled to DOT specifications as being loaded with concentrated sulfuric acid. You can do the approximate math.
The wastewater is usually disposed of by truck or rail, which poses a greater risk of accidents than shipping by barge, according to a government report. And one barge can carry about the same amount of waste as 100 exhaust-spewing trucks.
The disagreements go to the core of the fight over shale gas drilling. Environmentalists say the chemicals in fracking waste are a tragedy in the making, but the industry says far greater amounts of toxic chemicals are already being moved by barge, including waste from oil drilling.
In 2010, U.S. barges carried 2,000 tons of radioactive waste, almost 1.6 million tons of sulfuric acid and 315 million tons of petroleum products, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“We expect that shale gas wastewater can be transported just as safely,” said Jennifer Carpenter of American Waterways Operators, a trade group based in the Washington area.This is the same fight as the Keystone Pipeline being played out in another venue. Pipeline proponents point out that there are thousands of pipelines in the United States that deliver a host of important and needed products more cheaply, and more safely than the alternatives, and that the Keystone Pipeline would be no exception.
Environment America, a federation of 29 state-based groups, strongly disagrees. The group said in a statement that it gathered 29,000 comments from people nationwide opposed to the proposal. Courtney Abrams, director of the clean-water program at the group, urged the Coast Guard to “reject this outrageous proposal.”
Environmentalists, who unreasonably oppose the product itself (shale oil and and gas) will use any possible excuse, however strained, to oppose it.
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