Commentary: Local ordinance won't stop oil companiesIn the fifties, it was putting fluoride in our drinking water to prevent cavities. In the sixties it was building underground bomb shelters to protect us against the inevitable Soviet attack. As far as Goodhue County residents are concerned, the threat now facing us from the permitting and development of silica sand mining is more real and devastating than either of the foregoing.
By: Richard W. Johnson, The Republican Eagle
In the fifties, it was putting fluoride in our drinking water to prevent cavities. In the sixties it was building underground bomb shelters to protect us against the inevitable Soviet attack. As far as Goodhue County residents are concerned, the threat now facing us from the permitting and development of silica sand mining is more real and devastating than either of the foregoing.
Fortunately, there are a few people who comprehend the threat. Unfortunately, very few are on the County Board or planning commission, and that makes this issue much more complicated.
Creating a new ordinance or revising the old one is a non-starter. The giant oil companies, the most powerful and richest in the world, see any ordinance as less troublesome than swatting a fly. They have 20 floors of attorneys in a Houston high rise who will make chopped liver out of it and the people proposing it.
Where in the world did the County Board, planning commission or land-use office get the idea that it would be a good "fit" to confront an oil company? You don't make the rule book, they do. These are the same people who despoiled the North Coast of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico as well as many other prime environmental areas.
In the late 19th century, Henry David Thoreau, one of our greatest poets, while visiting the Midwest said "if one aspires to be a poet, he should first spend time along the banks of Lake Pepin."
Last year, in a national travel magazine, the drive around Lake Pepin was named the most idyllic in North America.
About 15 years ago, the New York Times had an extensive article in its Sunday magazine section on Lake Pepin, praising its scenery and its quality of life.
Read a copy of Big River News and see all of the hundreds of businesses that make a thriving business out of tourism centering on that quality of life.
To the Goodhue County Board of Commissioners:
You were elected to build and maintain our roads and bridges, provide for our law enforcement and justice system, collect taxes, provide for the preservation of land records, birth and death records and do other administrative tasks.
No one asked or consented for you to allow an interloping, anti-environment, corrupt bunch of Texans to assault our county, embark on a plan to rip the top 50 feet of our soil and haul it away to some godforsaken place, send 600 large trucks a day down our highways, put a layer of poisonous silica dust over everything, dynamite 20 hours a day, use an obscene amount of valuable fresh water and poison the rest, make dishonorable people out of ordinary citizens by paying them 10 times the value of their land thus denying the farmers around them the fair value of their farms due to the presence of a sand mine, putting clouds of silica dust for our children and grandchildren to inhale, and all the while being arrogant about it, pretending that this was why you were placed on this earth and in one of the most scenic places, the upper Mississippi River Valley. It wasn't.
Texas environmental record is dead last in the U.S.
The 275 citizens at the Planning Advisory Commission meeting — 75 denied a seat and having to stand in the hallway, so for the July 30 meeting, get a gymnasium; you will need it — brought many articulate and meaningful comments. These reflected the considerable thought they have given to the matter as well as some heartfelt thoughts that you need to be aware of. If you do not do so, act at your peril.
I am reminded of the effort by all of the downtown businesses 15 years ago, including the five "stakeholders" who spent two years and $2 million of Port Authority money in a fruitless effort to bring Target to downtown. It failed, not only because it was a flawed plan, but because they ignored 9,000 signatures on petitions opposing it.
On the eve of the vote, all but one council member had committed to vote in favor of the plan. When they saw the chambers packed and leading down the stairs to the lawn outside and heard how upset the people were, they turned the plan down.
A number of elements of that debacle are present in the silica sand mine matter. Those present at the planning commission’s hearing were polite and courteous. Do not presume that will continue. In my opinion, they are not asking that you drop the ordinance and get a further moratorium. They are demanding it.
A few have made reference to possible jobs lost from the absence of mining. They do not come close to replacing those that would be lost to a damaged tourist industry as well as those lost due to people unwilling to locate her due to the environmental damage the threat to public health.
Any plan to permit mining by ordinance lacks sustainability. Each mine opened results in a continued deterioration of our precious environment. It is accepting short-term profit, and then only for a very few, in exchange for long-term expense. No county can allow this to occur and look at itself in the mirror and say this is the right thing to do.
Drop the ordinance work, declare a new moratorium, ask the governor for a statewide moratorium and to have a commission study the matter and recommend a course of action and to have a "hands-on" part in the Environmental Pollution Agency, their study commission on both frac and silica sand mining and await the outcome, which should resolve this matter that needs a scientific finding, not a political one.
We are only trustees of our land for future generations. This can be done provided the County Board is capable of knowing and "doing the right thing."