DECEMBER 6, 2013 — The American Waterways Operators, the national trade association representing the tugboat, towboat and barge industry, has submitted comments on the U.S. Coast Guard's draft policy for the bulk carriage of conditionally permitted shale gas extraction wastewater (SGEWW).
Noting that barge transportation offers significant environmental advantages and has a long-established record of transporting a wide array of potentially hazardous materials safely, AWO's Senior Vice President – National Advocacy, Jennifer Carpenter, stated that the association strongly endorsed the premise of the Coast Guard's draft policy letter that SGEWW can be safely carried by barge. She said that AWO members will work closely with the Coast Guard to advance common objectives of ensuring the safe and efficient movement of shale gas wastewater.
"AWO is committed to the goal of zero harm from our industry's operations – to human life, to the environment, and to property," Ms. Carpenter said. "AWO members have a strong record of success in moving environmentally sensitive cargoes safely, securely, and efficiently."
AWO called the Coast Guard's attention to the comments of the Marcellus Shale Gas Coalition and the American Petroleum Institute, which recommended changes to testing protocols and tolerances as well as urging Coast Guard consistency with relevant U.S. Department of Transportation regulations.
The letter also stated that transport of shale gas wastewater should only be allowed if the barge owner obtains documentation from the offeror of the cargo before it is loaded on the barge certifying that the contents have been analyzed according to guidance set forth in the draft policy.
"This approach – ensuring that a SGEWW cargo is safe for transport before it is loaded in a barge – is the best way to ensure the protection of personnel and the environment," AWO wrote.
"In summary, AWO strongly supports the carriage of SGEWW by barge and believes that such transportation offers significant environmental advantages given the tugboat, towboat and barge industry's strong record of transporting hazardous or potentially hazardous materials safely," Ms. Carpenter concluded.
AWO members account for more than 80 percent of domestic barge tonnage, including the vast majority of tank barges and two-thirds of towing vessel horsepower.