Elections matter, but for Bluestem, they're a means to an end: good government. In Greater Minnesota, local control is a key piece of that puzzle. Historically, rural Americans--at least those of us in the Upper Midwest--have organized when we felt that decisions were being made elsewhere, for someone else's benefit.
The dark side of this suspicion can manifest itself in a cruel populism that fosters fear of outsiders while stunting the local souls. But the bright side? Farmers' co-operatives. River valley revivals. Strong schools. Most Bluestem readers know the drill.
We've been looking at frac sand politics for well over a year here. In yesterday's Politics in Minnesota article, On the fracking front King leads the Land Stewardship Project into numerous issues, Nancy Crotti profiled the work of Bobby King, LSP's ace state policy organizer. He's one of the people to thank for the defeat last session of bills to gut local control. Crotti writes:
King has worked to help rural communities to use their zoning powers to keep out factory farms in the 1990s, and most recently, sand-frac mining operations that have, as King puts it, created a disaster in Wisconsin. . . .
Land Stewardship Project worked to defeat a bill this past legislative session that would have undermined local governments’ ability to declare a moratorium on large-scale developments, such as big-box stores, factory farms and sand-frac mines.
“All five counties in southeast Minnesota adopted moratoriums and many townships did and then this bill came along that would gut that right and a lot of folks were upset by that,” King says. “There were also some legislators down there, who because of this issue, were really strong advocates of defeating this bill.” . . .
The article is firewalled, so find a copy of PIM or subscribe to read the whole thing. Down in the Houston County News, there's a more accessible and more local story that illustrates how local people are making decisions for their own communities.
In Frac sand moratorium amended to halt mining, Clay Schuldt reports:
The Houston County Board of Commissioners at its July 24 meeting amended wording in the frac sand moratorium it enacted on March 20 to fully halt all silica sand mining.
The moratorium was put in place to give Houston County time to study the effects of frac sand mining. However, the original moratorium only prevented companies from applying for new permits to operate frac mines and did not cover mines that already had been permitted. This became an issue a few months ago when an old mine owned by Tracie Erickson, which was first permitted in 1992, planned to restart operations for the purpose of mining frac sand. As the moratorium did not exclude old mines, the county commissioners could not prevent the mine from operating.
Environmental Services Director Rick Frank brought the amendment to the board. Frank said these existing permitted mines are circumventing the moratorium and this amendment would prevent further grandfathering in of previously permitted frac mines. . . .
The amendment, which was passed unanimously, will not prevent the Erickson property mine from operation, but will prevent other mines from reopening for the purposes of mining silica sand. . . .
The board also received a petition signed by 288 county residents supporting the moratorium.
Read the article in the Houston County News.
Photo: A frac sand mine in rural Wisconsin. Photo by Jim Tittle.