People Power Wins in Winona County

NOTE: At the Land Stewardship Project's event celebrating the passage of the Winona County frac sand ban in southeastern Minnesota, LSP Winona County Organizing Committee members reflected on their involvement and the work that went into organizing the successful campaign for a ban. Committee member Cathy Groebner of St. Charles, Minn., gave these remarks at the Dec. 3 event:

Back in 2012, my husband Lee and I were traveling through Cochrane and Fountain City, Wis. We noticed signs that said, "No F.R.A.C." We tried to figure out what that was all about.

We figured out the signs were referring to a proposed frac sand rail plant in the area. Back in St. Charle, a few months later, we started hearing of a group of guys from Chatfield, Minn., who were planning on doing a “Farm-to-Rail” plant. We didn't pay much attention to it because it is a farming area; we figured it must be something the farmers are in need of.

Soon farmers were saying: no, that's not us! A group of concerned citizens started to educate people as to what this was all about. We found out what “No F.R.A.C.” was all about. The Chatfield guys (or, whoever was really behind it) planned on establishing a frac sand washing, loading, unloading and transportation facility outside of St. Charles. This would require the annexation of land.

Well, thanks to the organization "Concerned Citizens for St. Charles," people learned what fracking was and what this was going to open up in our city and county. The people of St. Charles got over a thousand signatures from residents of the city to stop officials from annexing the land needed for the frackers to continue. Yep, we the people kicked the frackers out of town!

But the frac industry wasn't done — there was a mine in Winona County up for an EAW (Environmental Assessment Worksheet), and rumors of six to 12 mine operators planning on obtaining permits. I remember walking in the St. Charles parade with Land Stewardship Project members, reminding people that it was not over. Soon after that, I got involved with LSP to ban frac sand mining in Winona County — I attended county board meetings, did phone calling for LSP, and called and wrote commissioners. It felt like we had county commissioners on speed dial. There were rallies and speaking at the Tau Center and Tandeski Center. I usually don't do public speaking, but this was important enough that I ended up speaking in front of hundreds of people.

And finally, after so many great people in Winona County had been working so hard, we had three county commissioners that heard us loud and clear: ban frac mining in Winona County. Yes, We the People and the great organizing and leadership of LSP banned frac mining in Winona County. We sent the frackers over the hill with no sand in their pockets! People power!