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.
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.