November 1, 2012
By Therese Dunphy
Keeping up with aggregate industry coverage in the mainstream media is often a bit like being a conservative watching MSNBC: There are factual nuggets to be digested, but it’s hard to swallow the spin that comes with them.
This was my frame of mind as I read an article in The Register-Guard concerning Knife River’s effort to permit an 80-acre gravel pit that would abut one of Springfield’s well fields. The story described how the Springfield Utility Board (SUB) was “adamantly opposing plans” for the mine. SUB claimed the mine “could present a significant contamination threat to its Willamette well field, which supplies more than 40 percent of the city’s water,” while it said the proposed batch plant increased the risk of chemical contamination.
The SUB provided Knife River’s draft water-monitoring plan, which included adding three new groundwater monitoring wells to the six already on the property, to the newspaper. To its credit, The Register-Guard did print a comment from Knife River’s Oregon-based manager of land planning, Tim Marshall, who said the company’s plan “would be to minimize conflicts with the SUB and everyone else.” Further, he was quoted as saying, “Our monitoring will demonstrate that we aren’t having the effects that people are afraid of. If we thought that we would be ‘destroying their well field’ as SUB puts it, it would be difficult for us to move forward.” Good for Marshall: He recognized the board’s concerns, but noted the company’s willingness to work with the community while calling attention to SUB’s inappropriate propaganda.
What really caught my attention amidst SUB’s oh-so-obvious attempt to rally the masses, however, was the response from members of the Springfield City Council and the city’s mayor. Several councilors asked for scientific proof, rather than postulate, that the mine proposal would truly endanger the well field. According to The Register-Guard, Mayor Christine Lundberg described some of the board’s presentation as “speculation on SUB’s part,” and told council members it must “separate fact from speculation.”
Hopefully, this refreshingly open-minded perspective is not just for show, and local decision-makers will consider facts rather than feelings when making its permitting decisions. Who knows, maybe Fox News will handle the follow-up coverage!
3 Things I Learned from this Issue
1. There are more than 15 million net acres of shale resources in the continental United States, page 5.
2. While we’ve seen some high-tech control booths, they don’t have to be fancy, page 26.
3. Tier 4 Interim engines can run biodiesel blends up to 20 percent, page 30.