In a win for clean water, Coast Guard drops controversial proposal to ship toxic fracking waste

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Heather Leibowitz

New York, NY – In a win for clean water and public health, today the U.S. Coast Guard quietly dropped its proposal to allow barges on the nation’s rivers and inter coastal waterways to transport toxic fracking wastewater.

“Shipping thousands of barrels of toxic wastewater down the rivers we drink from was a recipe for disaster,” said Heather Leibowitz, Director of Environment New York. “For the sake of our drinking water and our safety, we’re glad to see this bad idea put to rest.”

Fracking — the controversial drilling technique by which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are injected underground — creates vast quantities of toxic wastewater often laced with cancer causing chemicals and even radioactive material.

An Environment New York Research & Policy Center report found that fracking operations produced 280 billion gallons of such wastewater in a single year—enough to completely fill the Empire State Building more than 1,000 times over. Despite its often dangerous contents, fracking wastewater is not considered hazardous by the federal government, and its transport, treatment, and disposal is governed by a patchwork of inadequate federal and state regulations. 

The October 2013 Coast Guard proposal came in response to a specific request by a tank barge, and was immediately met with widespread criticism. More than 98 percent of the 70,000 public comments submitted on the plan — including over 29,000 collected from Environment New York– were opposed.

“Until we ban fracking altogether, we need to limit Americans’ exposure to its harmful pollution every way we can,” said Leibowitz. “That’s why today marks a small but important win for clean water and public health.”

(Heather Leibowitz, Director of Environment New York, with New York Assemblymembers Linda Rosenthal and Deborah Glick at the release of “Fracking by the Numbers”)