TRENTON – Environmentalists sounded the alarm Tuesday about what they see as the dangers of hydraulic fracturing waste being transported on waterways.
The environmental groups issued a warning that New Jersey – whose “fracking’’ importation bill was vetoed – could be at risk if a U.S. Coast Guard proposal becomes reality.
“Putting fracking waste on a barge is an accident waiting to happen,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.
“We already have a traffic jam on our rivers. This will only exacerbate existing problems.”
Environmental groups have been lobbying without success to ban importation, treatment or storage of fracking waste in New Jersey.
The bill that would have set a ban in place, A575, was vetoed in June 2012.
The situation that exists now involves possible transportation on rivers and intracoastal waterways, which fall under U.S. Coast Guard jurisdiction.
The Coast Guard has a one-month public comment period that ends on Nov. 29. Cargo such as fracking waste cannot legally be moved on such waterways without Coast Guard approval.
The Coast Guard, in consultation with the Department of Transportation, the EPA and other agencies, will determine “safe carriage’’ requirements, a spokesman said.
However, the environmentalists in New Jersey argued today that the Coast Guard is bypassing the traditional, more in-depth rule-making procedure.
“The policy letter by the Coast Guard admits that this material is so radioactive it requires special handling, it admits that there are hazardous chemicals present. That is just the nature of shale gas extraction wastewater,” said Tracy Carluccio of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
She argued that the proposal contains “loopholes and waivers that hopelessly undermine its reliability.”
The fracking opponents said today that the busy Philadelphia/Paulsboro port areas could be expected to see some of the waste that could be transported, and water supply intakes on the Delaware River at cities such as Trenton could be vulnerable.
“The Coast Guard is playing Russian roulette with our waterways,” said Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club.
Pennsylvania produced about 1.2 billion gallons of fracking waste last year, and “The industry is scrambling to figure out how to deal with it,” O’Malley said.
Food & Water Watch and Clean Water Action NJ participated in the press conference, at which some of the groups indicated that legal action could be an option.
The rule proposal can be reviewed: