Winona County Commissioner Marcia Ward is wrong in saying a frac-sand ban “isn’t legally in the cards.” Large-scale mining has been banned in Pepin County, Wis., and two townships in Goodhue County, Minn., for more than two years without being challenged.

The U.S. Supreme Court, the Minnesota Supreme Court and Wisconsin courts all give local governments broad powers to restrict or ban activity harmful to health, safety or general welfare. I own the land I live on, but I can’t legally fire a gun, burn trash or raise pigs there. And I bet my neighbors are glad I can’t.

The U.S. Supreme Court defines general welfare broadly, saying it includes spiritual, physical and aesthetic values as well as monetary values.

Too little attention is paid to the spiritual and aesthetic elements in the frac-sand debate. I got interested in this issue because I was raised on a farm in Crystal Valley near Houston, Minn. It wasn’t a big farm, nor was it highly profitable, but it was beautiful. And if frac sand were found on it, a company from Texas or Oklahoma or somewhere else would happily cut it up like a butchered hog. Frac-sand companies don’t give the tiniest fraction of a damn about the land they destroy.

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And their claim about reclamation is laughable — you cannot reclaim a hill that has been hauled away.

Winona County should ban frac-sand activity before this predatory industry victimizes us like it has our neighbors in western Wisconsin.

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(21) comments


"...the cost of groundwater contamination could be $250 million per year"

Oh really? That's totally fine. Maybe the corps can get their fines reduced even more than that.

So basically what you're saying is contaminated air/water from fossil fuels are worth the expenses we pay with our global health? Even though we have the ability to to not pollute with other forms? This leads to, "affordable"?

Like farafield points out, so if it's destroying our health and planet and we need to later fix it,
how is that affordable?

Also, not a single argument above in what I said above about 'global warming', this is pollution and health, something else the right thinks might not exist apparently?

I mean you're living in the past guys, it's pretty obvious we need to change our energy policy
with respect to gas, oil and coal. Stop being greedy, wake up and work to try to protect the people and the resouces around us, not exploit them...


Yaysus, jd, you're talking like a hooman bean lately. I almost feel like talking back. As the old cartoonist used to say, "Thanx, and a tip o' the hat."


in allamakee county we de facto banned frac sand mining there was none of this discussion. it was simply decided that this scale of mining was not a good fit for the county. allamakee is far more conservative than winona county. its not about fracking or global warming or anything like that. its simple does it fit in where you want your county to go?


That too make good sense. Best response yet, thank you.

Captain Norb

Didn't know that. If true, I might need to look into relocating my houseboat in Lansing.


"Another way of looking at it is that we are using a readily available resource to provide affordable sources of energy." When you know how much water is destroyed to get that oil and gas out of the ground, and when you know how much chemicals are mixed with that water and when you know how much pressure is used to frack and crumble the bedrock, well that is hardly the definition of "readily available." water used to be "readily available" and even water is becoming not so readily available. So when we destroy water that has to be figured in to definitions of "affordable" sources of energy. Fossil fuels are NOT affordable. We just aren't figuring in all the true costs.


Finally, something that makes a little more sense.


Until prices come down for other forms of energy we will continue to use the fossil fuels available. Right now this is the most affordable form of energy. There are associated costs for all forms of energy. When I say readily available I mean it is here in North America, not is some far off foreign land.

"But last year a group from Yale estimated that shale gas production contributes over $100 billion to US consumers annually. Jobs have been created, many landowners have benefited financially, and lower gas prices have provided relief for consumers in the form of lower heat and electricity bills. In comparison, the authors estimated that the cost of groundwater contamination could be $250 million per year, which is 1/400th the estimated benefit."

Nobody wants a wind or solar farm next door either.


You couldn't be more wrong.

I can see how in political discussions biased lenses prevail but this stuff is very legitimately objective. Furthermore it reflects poorly on your opinions when you cite a lack of evidence to the contrary when tons of it exist. Multiple documentary films have been made and yet you insist on pathetically grasping to unresolved evidential arguments like air and water quality to justify your perspectives to mine in our community. Then probably a few years down the road the eivdence will be there and you'll still deny it..

Destroying our planet and plundering our resources to make a select few wealthier is not the path we should be going down. Now it's hitting home and hopefully our community will recognize this and put a stop to it before it's too late.

We need to protect our area and stop those that would seek to destroy it for their own financial gain.


"Destroying our planet and plundering our resources to make a select few wealthier is not the path we should be going down."

Another way of looking at it is that we are using a readily available resource to provide affordable sources of energy.

The people that are complaining about fracking are the same people that a few years ago were complaining that we were sending our troops to war for the benefit of oil and that we should be utilizing the resources we have here in North America.


Troller is correct. It's almost impossible to get non-biased factual information. The biggest real question I have is how much damage is done by pulling the sand out since it is a natural water filter? I imagine that depends greatly on where the sand is.

As for reclamation, yes it can be done. I've seen mine sites where If you didn't know there was a hill there before you'd drive by and never know there was a hill or a sand mine there previously.

It really comes down to most people don't want a sand mine in their backyard. I don't blame them for that. But, that's the risk you take depending upon where you live. No matter where you live you only have so much control over what the adjacent land owner is going to do.

Of course we live in a society where people think their "rights" should trump everyone else's. Remember the "I shouldn't have to look up at the bluff and see your house" nonsense?!


I think they put a few feet of topsoil on landfills and re-use them as farmland also.

Ed Walsh

Steve Schild's concise and accurate legal conclusions are legally sound and well reasoned. Unfortunately, Winona County Commissioners, like all people posses individual and unique philosophies. Not unlike the "climate change deniers", some politicians allow their philosophies and ideologies to make it difficult, if not impossible, to follow the law and do the right thing for their constituents and Winona County.


"the right thing for their constituents" if you're one of the constituents who isn't a land owner looking to sell their property.....


Not picking sides, just a few questions.

IS there any real evidence that Frac Sand mining is more dangerous than gravel quarries and liquid manure being dumped?

ARE there any photographs of one of these mines before and after? With regard to restoration?

I don't know the right or wrong of frac sand mining, but I have yet to see anything but more emotional comments and the familiar "Sky is Falling" rhetoric.

Is there some non-bias place a person can go to get the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?


Who needs someone else's 'truth' when anyone with a small amount of cognitive ability, common sense, can establish that once these hills of sand are gone so are the trees, the protection of the water table, the scenic beauty of the lay of the land, and we will in all likely hood be left with the spoils to clean up after the sand mine company vanishes in the darkness of the night?


Have you driven by the quarry on Hwy#43 lately? I wonder what it will take to fill that in to reclaim that hill?


So your "common sense" is telling you all the hills and trees will soon be gone and our water will go along with it?


This letter is a nice Christmas present Steve. Thanks.


+1 Steve - Good job!

Red Hawk

MW has been a CC for far too long. She is a career politician, it is time for her to move on.

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