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The Obama Administration is nearing a decision on whether to allow shipment by barge of fracking wastewaters on the Ohio River and the nation’s other waterways. The issue first arose when drillers in Western Pennsylvania began making inquiries on whether barges could be utilized to transport flowback and produced water to trucking terminals along the Ohio River for over road transport to injection wells in Ohio for disposal. The US Coast Guard recently submitted a plan to the White House Office of Management and Budget ("OMB") that would allow barge shipments of waste fracking wastewaters. While the OMB has not revealed the plan’s contents, comments from the Coast Guard suggest that under the proposed plan, limits will be set for each component of the wastewater. Entities wishing to ship by barge would have to prove by analysis that the wastewaters to be shipped fell under those limits. Opponents of barge shipments argue that drinking water sources will be put at risk in the event of an accident. Proponents counter that barge shipments are more efficient, economical, and safer, citing Coast Guard and Department of Transportation data that for every barge accident, 2000 truck accidents occur.

 

 

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