Mining sand for fracking is turning Wisconsin farmland owners against each other


Several months ago I posted Let’s get the truth about fracking, and if you haven't watched Gasland yet, please do that asap.

Fracking is causing even more problems these days, this time in Wisconsin, eastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa, and northwestern Illinois.  Those are states in which sand formations are most prevalent, sand that the oil and gas industries need in their endless quest for profits by way of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). 

But in Wisconsin, it's pitting farmland owners who prioritize employment and royalties for land usage against those who are distraught over the potential negative health problems due to elevated concentrations of small sand particulates from airborne dust, along with concerns about high water usage required for fracking, and, of course, the usual environmental damage.

Via the L.A. Times:

The rapid expansion of sand mining through the quiet of western Wisconsin has raised fears among some residents and hope in others, often pitting neighbors against one another, just as fracking has done elsewhere [...]

High-volume hydraulic fracturing involves shooting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to crack shale formations and unlock oil and gas. The sand props open the fissures, and hydrocarbons flow through the porous sand up the well.

Residents worry about winds blowing around the sand from outdoor piles, resulting in respiratory problems from inhaling the dust.

One cattle farmer and anti-mining activist said, "Individual rights end when you start affecting others' health and welfare."

The companies that build the plants that process the sand pay tens of thousands of dollars in property taxes. Supporters feel that the payoff for Wisconsin is jobs, and for the country, cheap energy. They seem to be ignoring this "payoff":

Western Wisconsinites worry that airborne dust, or crystalline silica, as it is known, can lead to a potentially deadly respiratory ailment called silicosis. Research has shown the dangers crystalline silica poses on the job to miners and even to workers at fracking sites. But little is known about its effect on people who live near mine sites.

Critics want the air around mines monitored, but so far, only one air monitor has gone up in Chippewa County. In fact, air quality around mines is barely monitored, in part because of budget cuts at the state's Department of Natural Resources.

Good old Scott Walker and his GOP minions. Austerity first! Did they think about all the water needed for fracking, including to wash sand? They should. Additionally, in rural areas, mines can be built next to homes or schools.

But money talks... at least to some Wisconsinites.

One mining supporter "declined to specify how much he makes off his lease, he said it was more than $10,000 a month."

A cranberry farmer, in tears, said this:

"Fighting this just seems so hopeless... The companies just have so much money. They can just buy everybody. It seems like nothing can stop them. There's got to be better ways than this."

All of our posts on fracking can be found here.