America Is Running Low on Road Salt. Thanks, Winter.

The country is experiencing a run on salt.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
Add to Briefcase
Brian Resnick
Feb. 5, 2014, 8:26 a.m.

This winter, with its po­lar vor­tices and fre­quent storms, has driv­en up de­mand for road salt so much that mu­ni­cip­al­it­ies are start­ing to run low on sup­plies. And loc­al news out­lets are cry­ing “crisis.”

Here are some of their cries:

  • In West Mo­re­land County, Pa., CBS is call­ing the salt situ­ation dire. “We were prom­ised 400 tons last week,” a pub­lic-works of­fi­cial in the area told the out­let. “We only got 75 ton. We were prom­ised 100 ton today; I got 100 ton.”

  • In Delaware County, N.J., the town­ship roads com­mis­sion­er told a loc­al pa­per, “We’re as close to a state of emer­gency as you can get,” and said salt vendors are telling him they are out of stock.

  • New York state is cur­rently re­lo­cat­ing 3,500 tons of the min­er­al down to Long Is­land from up­state, due to short­ages.

And many more.

Faced with steep, sud­den de­mand, ma­jor salt man­u­fac­tur­ers have turned to pri­or­it­iz­ing where to send their product. Mor­ton Salt, which pro­duces the min­er­al for roads as well as for food, told of­fi­cials in Clev­e­land “they can only bring up 10,000 tons a day and, about a week ago, were about 23,000 tons be­hind.”

Mor­ton ac­know­ledges its delayed de­liv­er­ies. “We know this is frus­trat­ing for cus­tom­ers and com­munit­ies, and we apo­lo­gize,” the com­pany said in a state­ment.

But why are sup­plies so low?

“There’s been high us­age, and then every­body want­ing to get the last of their con­trac­ted salt kind of at the same time, and it’s just a nar­row­er win­dow to get the salt,” says Mark Klein, a spokes­man for Car­gill, a ma­jor sup­pli­er of road salt.

So it’s ac­tu­ally more of a salt bot­tle­neck than a salt short­age.

The prob­lem is that mu­ni­cip­al­it­ies place their salt or­ders in the fall, based on pri­or us­age and long-range fore­casts. They typ­ic­ally re­ceive a min­im­um or­der be­fore the winter sea­son be­gins and re­serve the right to or­der up to a pre­de­ter­mined max­im­um amount. What’s hap­pen­ing now is that some loc­a­tions are ask­ing for their max­im­ums, all at once.

While bad weath­er in­creases de­mand for salt, it also makes de­liv­er­ing that salt much harder. Salt-car­ry­ing barges can’t pass through frozen rivers. Freight trains need to plow the path ahead of them. And de­liv­ery by truck is sty­mied for the same reas­on road salt is needed in the first place.

“These storms have just been re­lent­less,” Klein says, not­ing that it’s not the huge storms that drop a foot of snow that tax the salt sup­ply, the kind that call for snow plows. It’s the re­peated dust­ings of snow and ice. At this time last year, salt miners were work­ing less than a 40 hours a week. There were even some lay­offs. This year, “we’re work­ing over­time in our mines,” Klein says. In those mines, work­ers are blast­ing gi­ant 45-foot-by-25 foot walls of salt and then pro­cessing the crys­tals down to size for road use.

As de­mand for road salt soars, so do its prices. In the Chica­go sub­urbs, for ex­ample, of­fi­cials say prices are three times high­er than nor­mal. The Southtown Star re­ports that one pub­lic-works dir­ect­or “has talked with sup­pli­ers out of state and has been quoted prices as high as $176 per ton, far above the $49 a ton his vil­lage paid.”

“Salt is like gold,” he told the pa­per.

What We're Following See More »
TRUMP CONTINUES TO LAWYER UP
Kasowitz Out, John Dowd In
1 days ago
THE LATEST

As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."

Source:
ALSO INQUIRES ABOUT PARDON POWER
Trump Looking to Discredit Mueller
1 days ago
THE LATEST

President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.

Source:
INCLUDES NY PROBE INTO MANAFORT
Why Yes, Mueller Is Looking into Trump Businesses
2 days ago
THE LATEST

In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."

Source:
Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."

Source:
ANALYSIS FROM CBO
32 Million More Uninsured by 2026 if Obamacare Repealed
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login