From: Erich and Elizabeth Lippman
One year ago, we were living in West Virginia, raising our family in a small town situated in the foothills of the Alleghenies — and atop a vast expanse of Marcellus Shale. In a story that has echoed through the hills of Appalachia for generations, we witnessed the descent of an energy boom. The rush to extract deep reservoirs of natural gas through hydrofracking was underway, and with what seemed like astounding speed we faced an everyday reality of increasing truck traffic, noise, and road damage and delays. Stories of day and nighttime light and noise pollution, respiratory and other health problems, drying and contaminated wells and streams, and destroyed forest land proliferated, while official statements reassured residents of high safety standards. The prevailing argument in favor of fracking activity was financial, a common one in Appalachia and not one to be taken lightly in a region known for its high poverty rate despite an abundance of natural resources. The urgency of this argument overrode a thorough investigation into possible consequences.
The tension between immediate financial gain and potential long-term effects continues — in West Virginia and across the nation — and contributed to our decision to relocate to Minnesota, a state we have long admired for its natural beauty and civic-mindedness. Now we count on that same sense of social responsibility as Winona grapples with the implications of large-scale frac-sand mining.
The geology of Southeastern Minnesota has shaped the unique character of Winona County. The frac-sand industry is a shaping force as well and promises to permanently alter our local landscape and way of life, just as natural resource extraction has done across Appalachia. Movements at the state and local levels are encouraging as citizens take time to ask necessary questions. We urge our city and state officials to continue to exercise prudence in the face of these important decisions to ensure that the impact is for Winona’s benefit and, in so doing, to preserve the quality of life and beauty of the bluffs that brought us here.