The Obama administration is inching ahead with a plan that would allow wastewater from fracking to be shipped on barges, fueling a debate whether it is safer than other transportation modes or risks polluting drinking water.
The Coast Guard last month quietly sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget a proposal to allow the barging of fracking wastewater. If the plan is pushed forward, it would become a proposed rule open for public comment and could be finalized sometime in the near future.
The wastewater is a mix of liquids, including fracking fluid sent down drilling wells to crack rocks and release gas, and so-called produced water from ancient formations deep within the earth that rushes to the surface when natural gas wells start to yield gas.
Environmental groups worry the fracking waste could make water unfit for drinking if spilled into rivers by barge accidents or leaks.
While the OMB will not comment on what is in the plan or give an estimate on when it could become a rule, the Coast Guard said late last year it hoped to complete a policy that would allow drillers to ship the waste via barge.