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home : opinions : opinions October 20, 2014


5/14/2014 1:15:00 PM
Tell us the whole story on frac sand
Judy Barisonzi, Rice Lake

Let's tell the whole story about frac mining. I'm referring to your front-page article in the May 7 Chronotype, "Sand companies continue adding workers, projects." It's nice to know that mining and processing local sand for fracking is providing jobs in Barron County, though right now the number employed seems to be only about 300; other jobs are just "projections." Sure, we need jobs. But let's look at the other side of the story, something The Chronotype article, which reads more like a publicity release for the frac sand companies than a piece of independent investigative reporting, fails to do.
First, how long will these jobs last? Mining operates on a boom-and-bust cycle. Ten years, maybe, I think is the life expectancy of a frac oil mine. When the boom is over, what then? Might it not be better for area communities to invest in attracting long- term jobs?
Second, how good are these jobs? Are these jobs that pay a living wage? What are the benefits? Pensions, sick leave, job security, and so on? I'd like to hear more from the sand companies on these questions. I think we want to be sure that the jobs we attract to our area are ones that can support a family and a decent way of life.
Finally, what are the costs to our environment and our communities? Noise from operations and heavy truck traffic is one of the biggest complaints of people unfortunate enough to own homes near the sand sites. What about their quality of life? And what about possible contamination of local streams and wells? Do small rural communities really have the knowledge and power to bargain effectively on these issues with sand companies and their well-paid lawyers? Finally, despite promises they have made, will the sand companies really pay for the environmental damage their activities cause? What if they go bankrupt-who will pay for the damage? Unfortunately the whole mining industry does not have a good record of cleaning up the devastation to local environments and communities that it leaves behind-think of mountain top removal in West Virginia. Will it be different here?
I'm disappointed at this one-sided article in The Chronotype.

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014
Article comment by: Randall R. Kniess

As I drive by the huge sand plants on HWY53, I see jobs. Men and women working as truck drivers, railroad workers, sand plant laborers and workers. Most are making well over what the local companies, which have been here for decades, are paying. Such complaints can only be lumped into a category of inane silliness. I do believe any mountain tops Barron County may have once had, were removed by the ice age glaciers. I can only surmise that the windmill electrical craze would be much better to your liking if they dotted the Blue Hills.

Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Article comment by: John Nelson

Re: Tell us the whole story
Ms. Barisonzi
Thank you for your comments. It is good to know that you support the creation of new jobs for all those who desire to work. Reviewing the original article and your concern that ONLY about 300 new jobs were created - I need to clarify with you that this is not what the article said. The article said that THE LARGEST EMPLOYER had created 292 new jobs. No detail was given to you or I, by the paper (or by you) as to how many total jobs were created by the sand industry. For the moment, let's focus on the largest employer and ignore the others. 292 new jobs are nothing to ignore, and they should be celebrated. 292 full-time jobs flipping burgers at minimum wage equals roughly $5 million dollars per year - with no benefits. These jobs pay well above minimum wage and they include benefits. At a bare minimum, $10 million dollars per year is coming into Barron County from outside Barron County - just from the LARGEST sand mine employer. Then add in the mechanics who keep the trucks and equipment maintained the fuel/oil/supply purchased locally even the folks who repair the roads. Yes, the roads will have more wear when they are used more heavily - and that cost is offset by tax revenue, but it also results in JOBS for those who fix the roads. All these jobs bring income, spending, tax revenue and most importantly - a sense of pride for the folks who are working these new jobs and supporting their families from them.

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