Letter: Big oil's team would crush Goodhue CountyTed Seifert, candidate for County Board, in his R-E interview seems to be under the impression regarding silica sand mining that the county, its attorney, land-use staff and others would be on an even playing field in any confrontation over the 40-page mine ordinance — yet to be created — with one of the largest oil companies in the world.
By: Richard W. Johnson, The Republican Eagle
To the Editor:
Ted Seifert, candidate for County Board, in his R-E interview seems to be under the impression regarding silica sand mining that the county, its attorney, Land-use staff and others would be on an even playing field in any confrontation over the 40-page mine ordinance — yet to be created — with one of the largest oil companies in the world.
Certainly he recalls the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, which 20 years later is still on appeal. More recently, the Gulf oil spill reflects that to do business with oil companies is not a good way to retain your health and fortune.
Our county players in enforcing or defending a sand mine ordinance would simply be inadequate due to their lack of experience. Keep in mind that the oil companies have the wherewith all and will to spend Goodhue County into oblivion. Their access to expert witnesses could not be matched by the county.
Seifert is not an attorney and is mistaken when he speculates that the county may not prohibit silica mines. If the motivating reason to prohibit any mining is because it constitutes a serious and sustained health hazard and would be a devastating environmental hazard, both of which are provable, the courts would sustain a one-sentence ordinance that states "Silica sand mining is prohibited in Goodhue County."
A 40-page ordinance would be ripped to shreds by the oil companies.
A county does not have to provide a use for every conceivable activity, especially when it jeopardizes citizens’ health as well as its irreplaceable environment. If Seifert is counting on the board’s "first line of defense" being headed by Steve Betcher, he must know that as chief deputy county attorney from 1979 and then county attorney from 1997 to date, Mr. Betcher has tried only one or two jury trials. In other words, Seifert would "christen" the new ordinance with a department administrator rather than a litigator.
The first job upon passing the ordinance would be to go out and hire one at a very high salary. Betcher’s present staff loses as many as it wins and would not be a good resource.
If there were a mining ordinance and a permit for a specific site were granted, the impact would not be limited to the site —noise, dynamite, lights, heavy truck traffic accompanied by silica sand dust suspended in the air at loading, going down the highway and at the unloading site from which it would be transported.
Estimates of truck volume are from 600 to 1,000 per day. There would be many "away from site" environmental degradations as well, such as water runoff.
Seifert, if returned to office, would play Russian roulette with our health and environment.
In years past, County Board elections were primarily based on who can deliver the best roads, particularly the one in front of my house. This year is a critical one inasmuch as it jeopardizes citizens’ health, welfare and quality of life. There is a good reason to vote.
An ordinance will be what the oil companies want it to be. The litigation costs in defending a 40-page ordinance will be many hundreds of thousands.
Our best choice is to pass the above referenced one-sentence ordinance, which is so short and simple. It is bullet proof, leaving little to attack.
The best candidate to present that position is Paul Drotos.
Richard W. Johnson