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Approve environmental review petition (09/26/2012)
From: Jane Cowgill

I write to encourage the County Board to approve the citizens’ petition for an environmental review of the first frac sand mine about to be permitted in Winona County. Although the Planning Commission recently voted to disapprove the petition, there are many reasons to reject their recommendation.

First, in only four days the citizens’ committee(s) collected 300 signatures from all over the county and state. This indicates real and wide-spread concern. Since one of the requirements for approval of the petition is exactly that—citizen concern (as Commissioner Redig pointed out to the other commissioners), I feel that the Planning Commission erred in its decision.

Second, since this is the first mine being considered for permitting, wouldn’t it be advantageous for all (citizens and industry alike) to get a clear, scientific evaluation of the mine site? Many issues still need investigation. For example, on 9/20/12 the Winona Daily News reported on a WSU presentation by two professors of geology. One of them, Dr. Toby Dogwiler, whose area of research is in water resources, was quoted as saying, “There’s no doubt it (frac sand mining) will affect groundwater resources.” I attended this meeting and can attest that he also said that each mine should be assessed for groundwater issues because each geological site is different.

Third, we need to get on top of all the issues regarding this energy industry scheme to grab all the sand they can as fast as they can. If we look at the example of the proliferation of frac sand mines in Wisconsin, and if we consider the size and scope of the processing and shipping site proposed by Minnesota Proppant for St. Charles, we can assume that the industry is planning many, many more mines. We need accurate, independent, scientific information about this mine and all the others which may follow in order to make good policy.

Finally, it has been difficult for individual citizens to be taken seriously by units of government. For example, the citizens of St. Charles Township voted against the processing plant in their town, but the powers that be are advising that the township be annexed into the city of St. Charles so that the project can continue. When government responds to the aims of corporations rather than to citizens whom they were elected to serve, a petition of this sort is the only way citizens can have any control over what happens to the environment they live in and love.

Come on, Commissioners, do the right thing. Approve the petition.



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