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Column: Prevent irreparable damage to pristine valley

The discussion regarding the frac sand issue facing our area has its roots firmly embedded in our insatiable appetite for energy.

The development of energy has both an upside and a downside. On the upside, it enables economies to grow, businesses to flourish and workers and their families to thrive. The downside is that the major sources of energy products are the same energy products that are spewing thousands of tons of carbon into our atmosphere every year.

The science is "in" on global climate change: 99 percent of all creditable scientists agree that climate change is a result of our dependence on fossil fuels to create the lifestyles that we have become accustomed to. The burning of coal, fuel oil and natural gas to create electricity, coupled with the internal combustion engine powering our transportation system, is responsible for almost all of the carbon loaded into our atmosphere.

This science is only disputed by those who have a vested financial interest in producing polluting, earth choking energy products or they are simply ill-informed.

In regards to our area, sand mining facilities have operated on both sides of the Mississippi for many years. In general, companies that are engaged in this business are smaller family-owned businesses. These family businesses have operated in a safe and environmentally effective manner, created jobs and have been active valued members of our communities. These companies have proven that under the right circumstances, sand can be safely mined.

But, make no mistake; these conglomerations proposing to mine sand in Goodhue County and other parts of southeastern Minnesota, as well as several counties in Wisconsin, are not small, family-run businesses. No, simply put, their method of operation closely resembles the way big oil has bullied and bought their way to profitability. And when big oil wants something, big oil gets it.

Right now big oil wants our sand so that they can create even more environmental nightmares by mixing it with chemicals and pumping it under high pressure into the ground and harvesting whatever might pop out. We need to make sure that when they get their way, it is done safely and only in those areas that will not do irreparable damage to our pristine valley.

Big oil and their minions have influenced the political process by splashing around very large contributions to both major political parties and to individual candidates. For this amount of money, they expect results. They also bully legislators and local officials by claiming that the price at the pump will skyrocket if they are not given permission to rape our planet. They claim that any responsible environmental reform would result it hundreds of thousands of workers being unemployed and a collapse of our economy.

Big oil did not invent these schemes of "splash the cash" or the "sky is falling" element of fear to further their cause, but, between them and the industrial military complex, they have perfected the practices.

We have clearly seen this same type of behavior by the frac sand companies. They have promised plentiful employment, they claim to be environmental stewards and their ever-too-close cozy relationships with elected and non-elected government officials are the Washington, D.C./big oil method of doing business.

Like I said, big oil is going to get what they want, but we need to ensure that by doing so the legacy that we leave our grandkids is one that we will be proud of.

Steve Murphy of St. Paul and formerly of Red Wing represented this area in the Minnesota Senate for 18 years. He periodically writes a column.