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Concerned Citizens for St. Charles

Fri, Oct 26th, 2012
Posted in All Commentary

By Travis Lange, Concerned Citizens for St. Charles

On behalf of the Concerned Citizens for St. Charles, I would like to thank everyone that has volunteered their time and talents to help spread the wealth of knowledge that has made a significant positive impact on our community. Some of you wrote letters or emailed the County Commissioners, some of you ordered yard signs, some of you helped pass those yard signs out, some of you personally visited with county officials, and some of you have sent numerous articles, links, photographs, and other informational pieces to post on our website and Facebook page. I cannot say “thank you” enough for all that you have done and continue to do to help our community become more educated on such a controversial topic.

Frac sand mining and frac sand processing has become the talk of the town. Recently, I’ve heard a comment repeated multiple times that I feel needs to be addressed. There seems to be a belief among some that the organizations behind the mining and proposed processing plant have too much money, therefore, there is nothing we can do. The truth of the matter is, we have no idea how much money MN Proppant has because they have not and will not disclose their investors.

Regardless of the money, the statement that there is nothing we can do is absolutely absurd. An organized and motivated group of concerned citizens can make their collective voices heard. A group of concerned citizens joined forces with the school district in Cochrane-Fountain City and got their county officials to listen. The county denied a frac sand railway spur and drying plant because the citizens were concerned about the proximity to the school as well as the health and safety concerns associated with such a facility.

In Buffalo County, zoning officials denied permits for a 450 acre frac sand mine near Montana, Wisconsin, citing concerns from a group of citizens. The city of Red Wing amended their zoning ordinances regulating the mining, transportation, and processing of silica sand because of continued opposition from an organized group of concerned citizens. Goodhue County is expected to adopt similar ordinances for the entire county. The city of Eau Claire rejected a rail spur frac sand transfer facility that was expected to pass just two weeks prior to the vote. In two short weeks, a group of concerned citizens assembled their resources, organized their members, and voiced their concerns. Their elected officials listened.

Trempealeau County denied a mining permit for the first time a few weeks ago. The proposed mine was near the small, scenic town of Chimney Rock. The town assessor was quoted as saying, “Because it is quiet and scenic and there is wildlife running around in the hills and clean air and water. If this mine or any other mine is put in Chimney Rock, you are destroying any incentive people have to move there, to build there.”

Houston County Commissioners have requested a non-biased, third-party review of a recent EAW submitted for a proposed mine near Rushford. The concerned citizens spoke out at a public meeting to voice their concerns that the author of the EAW was also the project engineer and the representative for the sand company. The County Commissioners agreed with their concerns. Due to the amount of opposition in Wisconsin, the state recently kicked off a five year study of water quantity in areas of greatly expanded frac sand operations. In our very own Winona County, the Commissioners recently voted to request an EAW (Environmental Assessment Worksheet) on the proposed Nisbit mine. This vote came after the County Planning Commission recommended against the EAW for the proposed mine. The concerned citizens for St. Charles emailed, called, and personally visited the Commissioners to voice our concerns…it worked!

The previously mentioned instances all occurred within the past two months. This is proof that a collective group of organized individuals can make their voices heard. I ask that you all continue to voice your concerns, talk to your friends, and ask your neighbors how they feel, discuss the proposed mines and processing facility with your family members, and let your elected officials know where you stand. Take the time to read the important pieces of information contained within the Dabelstein and Yoder EAW documents. Don’t get discouraged by the size of the documents, the first thirty pages contain the bulk of information. Focus on each question. f you feel the response is lacking information, request more. If you feel the response is missing factual data, request that it be provided. The public comment period is limited to thirty days.

Now is the time for all of our collective voices to be heard. Now is the time to ask your questions and demand answers. Ask yourself about the cumulative effect of ten or twelve mines all operational at the same time. What will that truck traffic do to our communities? How will that reshape our landscape in southeastern Minnesota? What will the environmental impacts be ten, twenty, or fifty years from now? Is this what we want for our region? If not, get involved, make a difference, and take a stand. It’s not too late! There have been no mining permits granted. The EAW on the MN Proppant facility has yet to be released. Don’t listen to the statement, “there’s nothing we can do.” There’s plenty we can do. Get motived, get educated, get organized, and get involved!

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