Saturday, December 14, 2013

Frac Sand Mining Poses a Real Threat To Our Way Of Life - Jono Ruf Letter-to-Editor

Mining for sand. That doesn't sound so bad or sinister, right? Most agree, except when it is done at the scale our neighbors in Wisconsin are currently enduring. Frac sand mining sites as large as 200 acres combined with washing/processing and rail loading have completely turned quiet rural Wisconsin into a silica dust cloud, trucking it's hills away forever. Just a few years ago, there were only 5 frac sand mines in Wisconsin, and there are now over 130, with applications for more permits piled up on the desks of municipal governments. Stories of corporate bullying, buy-offs, gag orders, and more are all too common amongst landowners and local citizens in Wisconsin communities that have been inundated by the sand rush. Now, these corporations are pushing the Wisconsin state legislature to adopt legislation banning local communities from making their own laws. This is a serious assault on democracy!

The global push for energy is on, meaning they are coming for our sand. The two most populous countries are industrializing and as a result they are experiencing huge increases in energy consumption. Oil supplies are waning, and with the global population expected to reach 9 billion this century, fracking is increasingly being pushed as a viable alternative. There are millions of frackable oil and gas wells worldwide, and it's estimated that 60% of new oil and gas wells are being fracked. Since wells can be fracked multiple times, it is possible to use up to a million pounds of sand per well. China and the US have the largest amounts of recoverable frackable hydrocarbons, and both countries have pledged and are planning to increase fracking. Here in the US, the Obama administration has pledged to create 600,000 jobs in the gas industry, despite studies showing that we could create millions of jobs in the renewable energy sector. China is currently working with Shell to construct what to date would be their largest foreign investment project, a petrochemical plant to facilitate the extraction and processing of hydrocarbons.

I'm sure there are many people who think, 'okay, we will just keep them out, this is a democracy after all.' If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, legal precedent has been set and reinforced hundreds of times to allow state and federal laws to preempt local law. What does this mean? In essence, if a company successfully submits a permit for a legally allowable use (which sand mining is), current law does not recognize our authority to stop it from happening, regardless if 100% of the community opposes such uses. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Corporations actually sue municipal governments for interfering with their 'right' to make a future profit, regardless of the environmental damages and community opposition. The system is rigged to allow corporations to come into communities and exploit them for their resources while leaving  communities with virtually no authority to protect themselves.

Our state and federal constitutions both state that 'All power is inherent in the people.' Let's take that power back. Let's no longer be subservient to corporations, and once again make them work for the public good. It is after all our responsibility to protect the environment for generations to come. A Community Rights based ordinance will give our community the ability to do just that.

Jono Ruf
Decorah IA

(Submitted to Decorah Newspapers and

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Flambeau Mine violates Clean Water Act

Though staffed by excellent people with the best of intentions, our regulatory system is set up to keep citizens busy without actually allowing them to have real decision-making power about things that affect their health, livelihoods and futures. This has been the case since their inception.

Our neighbors in Wisconsin are experiencing disempowerment at every turn as they try to protect their families, aquifers, lungs, air, and roads from the devastation that mining has brought them.

In 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that Flambeau Mining Company (FMC) had violated the Clean Water Act on numerous counts at the Flambeau Mine site. This year, the US Court of Appeals for the 7th circut ruled "that the mining permit issued to Flambeau Mining Company (FMC) by the State of Wisconsin “shielded” the company from prosecution and that we therefore could not enforce the Clean Water Act against FMC (even though the company had indeed violated the Act, as determined by the U.S. District Court)." Quote from Laura Gauger (Legal Affairs Coordinator, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council), October 30, 2013

Stop Wisconsin from Eliminating Local Control

Dear Community, Our neighbors in Wisconsin are facing a very disturbing piece of proposed legislation. This bill would prevent local communities from regulating frac sand mining in their jurisdiction. This means citizens having no say in their quality of life. Passage would set a horrible precedent for other states including ours. Please sign to support the citizens of Wisconsin.

Santa Fe County supervisor wishes he had voted for community bill of rights

Our Board of Supervisors in Winneshiek County needs to hear this. This member of the Sante Fe County, NM Board now wishes he had voted for a community bill of rights ordinance rather than a regulatory ordinance which is going to bring fracking to his county.