A new and comprehensive study on frac sand mining was released Wednsesday featuring input from a local man.Tom Quinn is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, a statewide membership organization working to support family farms and rural communities.
Quinn explains that the “frac mining industry will have a significant impact on rural communities – both positive and negative, and too often economic studies focus only on the positive impacts. Citizens need better data and better tools for evaluating all impacts and understanding how they balance with community needs. The history of mining as a source of long-term economic stability is generally very poor. It is argued that frac mining will be different, but communities need to evaluate this promise with open eyes.”
The new study suggests that communities considering frac sand mining should ask questions such as “What will be the costs to other economic activities?” and “What will be the environmental impact of these activities?”
The fear of many people in Glenwood City is that in the rush to pass a new mining ordinance these types of common sense questions are not being considered by the City Council. Residents also ask the council to visit New Auburn, only 40 minute east of Glenwood City, to witness a frac sand district first hand.
[WI Voices followed that advice and captured this video of Brenda Tabor-Adams in 2012, who lives in a New Auburn frac sand district with her family.] Continue reading
“No action was taken,” in reference to a new nonmetallic mining ordinance for the city, explained the Glenwood City Clerk.Both the existing and the new proposed mining ordinances are slated to be discussed at the next regular council meeting on May 6, 2013.
In the meantime, there was a discussion about a joint citizen/city council group forming in order to take a more collaborative look at the contentious issue of frac sand mining in their community.
Even though a late blizzard inundated the area with freezing rain and sleet, the meeting still drew between 30-40 community members.Thomas Quinn, a board member from neighboring Dunn County, reportedly offered examples of his county’s nonmetallic mining ordinance as a reasonable example for Glenwood City to consider moving forward.
The council listened to concerned citizens before deciding to table the issue.
Audio of the 4/18/13 Glenwood City Council Meeting here:
Original Post: 4/15/13
Mayor John Larson has confirmed that the City has authorized the Bakke Norman Law Firm from New Richmond and Menomonie to draft a new nonmetallic mining ordinance for Glenwood City. A special meeting, open to the public, is scheduled for April 18, 2013 at 7:00 pm at the Community Center in Glenwood City, WI.
City clerk Shari Rosenow explained that the agenda has not yet been set for this special session of the city council. However, potential items on the agenda include “discussion of possible action to approve a new nonmetallic mining ordinance” and “discussion of possible action to repeal existing nonmetallic mining ordinance”.
Locals Scott Teigen and members of the Crosby family are co-applicants with Texas company Vista Sand. In the summer of 2012, the initial Special Exemption application was submitted for approval through St. Croix County to allow operation of a frac sand mine ¼ mile from the public school. However, County staff has determined the application to be incomplete at this time. WI Voices previously interviewed St. Croix County’s Land Use and Conservation Specialist, Alex Blackburn, who has now explained that the county is “still working with Vista Sand on getting the required information.”
At a special meeting in February (shown in the video), Teigen explained that they were still pursuing the County application. However, as a “Plan B” they are requesting that Glenwood City annex the property and assume control of the frac sand mine permitting process. Teigen estimated that the direct benefit to the city could be up to $250,000 annually and potentially 50-60 jobs. Glenwood City Mayor John Larson advised the City Council, “Are all mines run right? No… But I think it can be done right and this body needs to at least take that into consideration.”
Some area residents are concerned that this move by the city may be a step toward authorizing the controversial “Vista Mine”. Small business owner Jim Laskin is troubled by the speed with which the city is moving on this is issue. Calling annexation ““flat-out irresponsible”, he questions “Why, exactly, is Glenwood City in a better position to monitor a 500 acre open-pit silica sand mine and processing facility than the county that has to have 100 times the resources of little Glenwood City?”
Town of Glenwood County Supervisor Barry Peterson also commented on the April 18 meeting, “I’m concerned about the annexation. The potential zoning ordinance (under consideration by the City Council) seems like it is a little weak and we may need to be adopting a more thorough ordinance.”
With over 100 frac sand mining and processing sites, Wisconsin is now the leading supplier of frac sand in the nation. But are companies operating in our state complying with regulations? According to a recent report, about 90% of sites visited by the DNR were issued letters of noncompliance, and nearly 20% of active frac sand mines and processing plants were cited for environmental violations.
This record is troubling for people when a mining company proposes coming to their town.
So at WIvoices.org, we’ve brought you a condensed video version of a small town meeting on frac sand mining. You will hear the concerns of people debating the pros and cons of annexing a proposed frac sand mining site to Glenwood City, WI. This meeting was held on February 25, 2013 and was informational, since no formal annexation request had been submitted prior to the meeting, and no action was taken by the city council.
Over 70 people attended the public meeting in the village of 1200, even with short notice. The purpose of the public meeting in Glenwood City last night, as explained by Mayor John Larson, was “to hear Scott’s (Teigen) presentation” to the city council proposing that his land be annexed in order to begin frac sand mining on his property. Currently, a mining application for the “Vista Mine” which would allow mining on Teigen’s property is under review by St. Croix County. Teigen called the proposed annexation by the city, which would circumvent county review, his “Plan B” to move forward with the mine.
Looking over the large crowd, Mayor John Larson joked that Friday’s public posting for this meeting “apparently worked”. This elicited few laughs in the group with several openly complaining that the posting was poorly placed, given short notice, and contained vague details about the meeting.
Council members voted to open up the meeting to comments from the crowd, with a 60 minute time limit stipulation. Sixteen members of the public cited an opinion on annexation with 13 speaking against and 3 supporting annexation. With hands in the air, Mayor Larson called the meeting to a close.
Check back with WIvoices.org for full coverage of the meeting to come.
Small business owner, Brenda Tabor-Adams, lives with her husband and 2-year-old son in a silica frac sand mining district between New Auburn and Chetek, WI. They are surrounded by mines. Two separate facilities are within a third of a mile and three more are within one mile of her once-quiet, rural property. In addition, several more mines are proposed or already operating nearby. Brenda’s clients now compete with 1,000 sand trucks per day, or 20 trucks every 15 minutes, in order to get their horse trailers in and out of her property. With trucks running for 12 hours/day, 6 days/week, her life has been turned upside down. Dismissed as “collateral damage” by local officials, she fears for the environmental impact, the health of her family and neighbors and the sustainability of her small business. Tabor-Adams also details troubling issues that regular people face when dealing with multimillion dollar mining companies, including lawyers threatening lawsuits, town and county boards “stacked” with pro-sand officials, and the understaffing and underfunding of the Department of Natural Resources tasked to protect the land and the people. Brenda says, “Our government has failed us miserably…”
Here’s her story.
Video Highlights from Tabor-Adams:
“I’m stuck here in this house and they won’t… [choking up with tears, hand over mouth]…they won’t help us out.”
While interviewing Jim Laskin about frac sand mining in Glenwood City, he was insistent that we travel 40 miles east to witness a full-fledged silica frac sand mining district enveloping New Auburn, WI. With 7 mines within a 5 mile radius, we decided to take Jim’s advice. So, we loaded up our camera gear and hit the road. The sand rush is transforming Wisconsin in many ways. With 87 operational mines and dozens more proposed, we wanted to experience what it felt like to live in one of those areas.
It was a mostly clear, warm September day. Most of the drive was what one would expect in rural Wisconsin in early fall: corn fields tall and near harvest, green rolling hills, landscape littered with farm houses and silos, occasional deer grazing near the wooded edges, and birds of all kinds abundant.
Then we came around a rolling curve and the landscape abruptly changed. This was the first frac sand hill we discovered, so we stopped our car to film it. There was what can best be described as an invisible film in the air. I could feel it on my lips almost immediately. The substance was tasteless, yet I compulsively licked it off and spit it in the ditch every few minutes. Within 20 minutes any bare skin on my body felt dirty, yet I still couldn’t see anything.
So I decided to run my hand across the hood of the car. There it was. This is the amount of dust collected on the hood of our car parked for 25 minutes, 1/4 mile away, from a silica frac sand mine near New Auburn, WI.
Glenwood City, WI small business owner, Jim Laskin, owns The Café on the main street in town. He serves a homemade meal with organic coffee along with information and updates to people about the newest developments with mining in their community. The oil and gas hydrofracking industry has discovered that Wisconsin has the most premium silica sand in the nation. Strong and spherical, this desirable dusty sand is mined and shipped out of our state by the millions of tons, where it is utilized to prop open the earth for gas and oil extraction elsewhere.
Within just a few years, our state experienced an increase from 3 silica sand mines to 80, with 40 more proposed. What troubles many citizens with sand fracking coming to their communities is the passage of Wisconsin’s 2011 WI Act 144. This law limits the authority of local government to enact a moratorium in order to slow the process down so that citizens may study the effects on the people and the land. This is significant to Laskin, who tells us that he may eventually be boxed in by mines on 3 sides of his rural farm. In addition, one of these mining companies has taken the bold step of proposing a 480 acre open-pit mine in a residential area, next to the public school, in Glenwood City.
Laskin gives us an inside look into a community overwhelmingly opposed to silica frac sand mining within their city limits. He admits that he wasn’t always concerned about mining. But now he says, “I didn’t really have a choice.”