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Guest Commentary: Balance sheet approach to frac sand mining decisions

Fri, Apr 26th, 2013
Posted in Rushford Commentary

Bryan Van Gorp

By Bryan Van Gorp, Rushford, MN

Let’s look at the economic, social, and environmental pros and cons to frac sand mining in SE Mn.

Economic impact

Dr. Steven Deller an economist from U of W who studied sand mining in Western Wisconsin says there are both plus and minus impacts.

Plus - there will be some decent paying jobs created

Plus - for each mining job there will be a multiplier affect of about 1/10 job created in surrounding communities (most purchasing will be done outside local communities at major shopping hubs)

Plus - a few land owners and mining companies will make substantial profits

Minus - flicker affect – cycles of boom and bust based on price fluctuations resulting in increased unemployment

Minus - increased healthcare costs for local residence

Minus- decreasing population, he repeated several times that no one wants to live next to these things

Minus - decreased property values of 50 percent adjacent to the mine with decreasing impact out to 3 to 5 miles and along haul routes

Minus - decreased income from other sources such as tourism

His conclusion was basically no net economic gain or loss, it is a wash.

Social impact

Plus - no positive impact on quality of life other than the economic impact discussed earlier

Minus - increase in truck traffic resulting in more accidents, dust, noise, and slower commutes

Minus - increased road repair at tax payer expense

Minus - has already been proven to divide the community

Minus - decreased natural beauty and enjoyment of our environment

Minus - possible increase health problems caused by silicosis, diesel fumes, polyacrylamide use, as expressed by Dr. Feyereisn from Mayo Clinic

Minus - possible loss of springs, wells, and water contamination, this is likely if washing, processing, and mining near the water table are allowed

Net social impact is clearly negative.

Environmental impact

This is most important because a healthy economy or society is dependent on a healthy environment.

Plus - nothing conceivable

Minus - taking down scenic bluffs and scaring the landscape as is happening now in Wisconsin

Minus - decreased air quality from silica dust, diesel fumes and particulates

Minus - decreased water quantity and quality if washing, processing with chemical, or mining near the water table are allowed

Minus - accidents will happen, two major sand slides following heavy rains have occurred in Wisconsin damaging neighbor’s private property and a river

Minus - approximately 25% of the sand mines in Wisconsin have been sited for environmental violations

Minus - Houston County currently has no security bonds in place, has never enforced reclamation requirements, and admits to not having enough personnel to enforce regulations so why would we believe this will happen in the future.

Net environmental impact is clearly negative.

Taking all this into consideration it becomes obvious that the liabilities out weigh the benefits. The wise thing would be to take a conservative approach and limit exposure to risks, better safe than sorry.

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