Environmentalists said the possibility of a spill that could contaminate Pittsburgh’s rivers with chemicals isn’t worth the risk. But industry officials said barges are the safest, and cheapest, way to move the wastewater.
“Waterways are the least costly way of transporting it,” said James McCarville, executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, an agency that advocates for waterway transport. “We look forward to being able to get the trucks off the highways as quickly as possible.”
Stout counters that the risks on the water are huge.
“If and when there’s a spill, that can’t be cleaned up,” he said. “That means it’s going to be in the drinking-water supply of millions of people.”
One of the companies interested in the policy is GreenHunter Water, which handles wastewater for major oil and gas companies.
Jonathan Hoopes, president of GreenHunter, said the company is pleased that the proposed policy has been published.
“Now that we’ve seen the proposed policy letter, it allows us to do the research that we need to do to comply,” he said.
“You’ll hear a lot more from a lot larger companies than GreenHunter in the near future about this,” he added.
Officials from the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents gas drilling companies, did not return a phone call requesting comment.
There is commercial interest in moving the wastewater from Pennsylvania via inland waterways to be stored, reprocessed or disposed of in Ohio, Texas, and Louisiana, according to the policy.
If approved, the Coast Guard’s policy could be momentous for the gas-drilling industry, as the amount and transportation of wastewater is seen as a growing concern for both the industry and its critics.
Each barge could transport approximately 10,000 barrels of wastewater over the nation’s waterways.
Steve Hvozdovich, who is with the advocacy organization Clean Water Action, said his group plans to comment on the policy.
“I’m a little disappointed to hear there’s only a 30-day public comment period,” he said. “Thirty days is not sufficient in my mind.”
Reach Emily DeMarco at 412-315-0262 or firstname.lastname@example.org.