Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Engaging the frac sand PR machine

The frac sand industry has responded to my Dunn County News guest column "Sand doesn't equal community well being," with Aaron Scott, the plant manager of a mine located just outside Menomonie, writing a letter to the editor titled "Sand mining has economic benefits."

For the most part, I feel honored that my ideas have caught the attention of the mining industry. In a way, it's validating that they see a need to respond in a public forum. The operation that Scott manages is owned by Wisconsin Industrial Sand, a subsidiary of Fairmount Minerals, headquartered in Chardon, Ohio, which operates at least three frac sand mines in central Wisconsin. Fairmount is also a founding member of the new Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association (WISA), a lobbying group recently formed by four companies.

Scott's letter simply repeats a series of claims about jobs and economic benefits that have been widely disseminated by Fairmount Minerals through their substantial public relations efforts. Coordinated now through WISA, frac sand interests are actively seeking to frame public discussion and perception of their industry.

What frustrates me is that Scott calls my article "misleading," suggesting that I am spreading "false information." Anyone who reads my article and thinks about it will recognize that I am raising questions and highlighting a wider context. There is nothing misleading or false about this.

I suspect Scott, however, is more concerned with his company's public image than substance.

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