To the Editor:
Is Houston County facing a series of Moral Hazards over industrial frac sand mining? One form of moral hazard exits when a party will take risks because the costs will not be felt by that party, but rather, the potential costs will be borne in part or whole by another party.
The county will likely face a hazard of indeterminate proportions with regard to frac sand mining and its associated operations. Potential mining interests would reject assuming full responsibility for all their actions and attendant consequences to conserve their profit margin.
Another form is informational asymmetry. This occurs when mining interests have a better knowledge base, more thorough information and experience in all frac sand operations and the resulting repercussions, than the county and township officers. This puts the county at a disadvantage in fulfilling its legal and moral obligations to the citizens. This too, is a moral hazard. Taken together, these hazards pose a series of problems.
Among these problems are the following:
1. Accelerated road damage. The zoning and planning office is drawing up plans for restoration. Hopefully this hazard will be averted.
2. Aquifer and well contamination and wells drying out.
3. Surface water contamination and other erosional effects.
4. Devaluation of private property adjacent to mining sites, transport routes and processing centers.
5. Physical disorders and diseases, such as biorhythm disruption with long mining and transport operations among the nearby populace and silica dust silicosis.
To counter theses hazards, mining interests offer up job creation to the county as an incentive for granting them operation. Here, readers should be mindful of pigs in pokes, Greeks bearing gifts and Trojan horses. How many jobs will county residents be qualified to fill? Will they provide living wages, benefits, retirement accounts? What of the Economic Multiplier Effect? Will it commensurate with the value of the frac sand being removed, processed and sold by mining interests to the hydofracing companies in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Saudi Arabia? Absolutely not.
If frac sand mining is allowed, and were it characterized as an economic boom today, will we regret our enthusiasm 20 years from now? If the mining and transport activities are a great deal for the county residents, do you think we will see the corporate executives put up a mansion downwind of mine sites to admire their endeavors on our behalf?
So, how ultimately would our county benefit by permitting frac sand mining? The only winners would be the very few mine owners. The rest of us would be left holding the proverbial bag.