Barge companies like Coast Guard plan
By Chris Buckley
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, 6:31 p.m.
A Coast Guard proposal to allow fracking waste to be shipped along the nation's rivers to disposal sites is being welcomed by local barge firms.
And it is being eyed as a possible means to offset some loss of river traffic due to the closure of two coal-burning electric power plants, including one in the Valley.
“There's been a lot of interest in transporting fracking water and getting it off the streets,” said Jim McCarville, executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh.
“We would expect that to translate into additional traffic on the waterways.”
The Port of Pittsburgh Commission's mission is “to promote the commercial use and development of the inland waterway-intermodal transportation system and to integrate that system into the economic, recreational, environmental and intermodal future of the residents and industries of southwestern Pennsylvania.”
The Coast Guard is accepting public comments on its proposal through Nov. 29. McCarville said although the Port of Pittsburgh hopes the Coast Guard makes a decision quickly, it can't predict when that might occur. The Coast Guard is expected to review all comments before making a decision.
Currently, coal accounts for about two-thirds of the cargo transported on the rivers, McCarville said.
Fracking fluid is about 99.5 percent water and sand, but the remaining 0.5 percent contains additives that vary from company to company, said Patrick Creighton, spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a drilling trade group.
FirstEnergy announced this summer that it was closing two coal-fueled electric power plants, including the Mitchell Power Station at Courtney. That plant shut down last month.
McCarville said the ability to haul fracking waste water would offset potential loss of barge traffic caused by the shutdown of coal-burning electric power plants.
Peter Stephaich, chairman and CEO of Campbell Transportation Co. in Dunlevy, which operates about 40 tows and 500 barges, said tank barges used today are double-hulled, meaning liquid chemicals are separated from the rivers by two layers of steel.
“They are tanks within tanks,” Stephaich said, adding one 15-barge tow can haul the equivalent of 216 railroad cars and 1,050 trucks.
The amount of waste that can be shipped in barges is one of the reasons why the industry wants the Coast Guard to allow it.
A Texas Transportation Institute report last year showed that barge companies had one spill of at least 1,000 gallons for every 39,404 ton-miles. By comparison, trucks average one spill for every 8,555 ton-miles and trains average one for 58,591 ton-miles.
From 2003 through 2009, barge spills plummeted, the report said. After three straight years of at least 10 spills at the start of that span, just one large spill was reported in both 2008 and 2009, the report said.
“We get cleaner and safer every year,” Stephaich said.
James Guttman, vice president Guttman Oil Co., said the Coast Guard decision to permit frack water transportation along the river “would positively impact increased business and employment” at his company.
The impact will be dependent on how the policy is written, Guttman said.
“Hopefully it will be an approved policy we can all comply with,” Guttman said. “If we can move it by barge, it would safer and more economical.”
The Guttman Group barges delivered fuel for the Mitchell Power Plant's petroleum needs.
A 2011 report cited by the industry coalition said additives include ethylene glycol, commonly used in airplane deicing and radiator fluid; 2-butoxy ethanol, used as a solvent in many surface coatings and fast-drying paints and lacquers; and hydrochloric acid. Many are considered harmful.
“Gasoline is gasoline, chlorine is chlorine. You know what you're getting. But frack water is going to be different company by company and well by well,” said Stephaich, explaining why the Coast Guard wants testing for every shipment.
Stephaich predicted third-party inspectors would perform the analyses, which could take days.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Shots fired, Monessen house hit on S. 14th St.
- Wanted man nearly hits cops
- Mortgages demand serious thought
- Greater Washington Food Bank gets new boss
- Trial ordered in Charleroi child pornography case
- Charleroi robbery suspect facing trial
- Belle Vernon, Ringgold coaching carousel continues
- Smoke evacuates Rostraver Kmart
- Grant helps Belle Vernon teacher build collection of Civil War artifacts
- Ozarks tournament filled with pageantry, top players in 1961
- North Charleroi man to stand trial for car thefts, arson charges