North 40 Resources, the company operating the former Rybak sand and gravel pit (now also a frac sand mine) and the Board of the Town of Farmington who issued the permit for the current operations are the “villains,” that is, if we’re out to name some.  However there is enough blame for nearly all of us to own a piece.  Nobody will escape this allocation.

I assume the members of the Farmington Town Board knew at least something about the controversy over frac sand mining in western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota and that some local governing bodies have successfully banned it following public protest, yet the Board members, with no real public discussion, voted in January 2019 to approve an operating permit which included silica (frac) sand mining and the associated activities such as increased blasting and truck traffic.  There clearly should have been at least a two month delay to issuing a permit to give adequate advance notice to Farmington residents and Osceola residents so at least one public meeting could be held to discuss the permit request.  This notice should have been published in the Osceola Sun every week before the meeting.  There could have been an orderly, constructive meeting(s) instead of the contentious, post-permit, July 1 meeting attended by 100+ irritated people.  People don’t like it when things just happen to them and in their community without prior knowledge.

The Big Blame began accruing about 150 years ago with large-scale extraction of oil from the earth to boost the American industrial revolution.  We’ve all used the various petroleum and natural gas products – we all know what they are:  gasoline, diesel fuel, heating fuels, plastics, fertilizers, and on and on.  We all knew that oil and gas are finite resources, but we have not committed to frugal, more sustainable living – note I didn’t say “lifestyles” – can we afford a lifestyle?  “Sleepwalking into the future” (James Howard Kuntsler) is our chosen lifestyle; we are the ones who spawned frac sand mining that enables the extraction of the little oil and gas that remain in the earth.  Without hydraulic fracturing (what the frac sand is used for), we would currently be on the steep slopes of low supply and high prices for all things petroleum.  We will be.    

Dave Anderson


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