Thursday, February 25, 2016

Coastguard Withdraws Plan to Transport Shale Gas Wastewater

On February 23, 2016, the Federal Register published a Notice of Withdrawal by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).  The Notice withdrew the October 30, 2013, proposed policy that concerned the “carriage of shale gas extraction waste water (SGEWW)” and would have allowed barge owners to request and receive a permit for the transportation of SGEWW.  The USCG said that the barge owners may continue to request to transport SGEWW under current regulations, which require barge owners to request approval on a case-by-case basis. 

The USCG regulates the carriage of hazardous material by listing in the Code of Federal Regulations.  46 CFR Part 153 lists the permitted cargoes and the safety requirements for those cargos.  Any cargo that is unlisted may not be carried without specific permission from the USCG.  SGEWW is an unlisted cargo and thus the vessel owner must request permission from the USCG to transport it.  The vessel owner must also provide "information about each individual cargo that the Coast Guard needs in order to analyze potential impacts and develop carriage requirements, and then comply with the requirements specified.”

The USCG received 70,115 comments regarding the proposal and 68,747 comments voiced disapproval with the proposed policy letter and expressed opposition to hydraulic fracturing.  The Notice did leave open the possibility of a creating a more standardized process and policy for permitting the transportation of SGEWW.  The agency has yet to approve any shipments on the case-by-case basis.  

Written by - Stephen Kenney
Research Assistant
Center for Agricultural and Shale law

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