I am a 6th-generation Winona County resident; I live near Lewiston on the family farm where I was raised.
We are here today, in the spirit of openness and full transparency, to learn more about an industry that is poised to make a huge and rapid impact on this beautiful region.
We are a region of farms, small towns, diverse businesses, manufacturing, higher education, and a growing arts and culture economy. In the past three years, the frac sand industry has developed more than 60 sites in Wisconsin — that’s thousands of acres. We need to know more about the potential impact on our economy and the environment before this development goes any further. But the industry is not operating in the spirit of transparency.
We want to know about the distant corporate connections in this industry, and to pull back the curtain. Which corporations? And who are their local collaborators? And who is providing the financing for this industry to get established, acquire land, put up processing plants, and so on?
A small number of these mines may initially be locally owned and operated. But it seems that many of the entities purchasing land, as well as developing mines and processing centers, are distant oil and gas corporations, such as EOG (formerly known as Enron Oil and Gas) or the Oklahoma–based Windsor Permian (owned by the Connecticut-based hedge fund group Wexford Capital), or outside frac sand companies like the one we will visit today, Superior Sand Systems from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Others like Minnesota Proppant have only been formed this last month, or 10K International, six months ago. And whatever happened to entities like Minnesota Sand LLC, Farm 2 Rail, and the St. Peter Sand Company? Have they just vanished? Can we really trust this industry? What developments are our public officials helping to facilitate without really checking deeply into these companies’ track records? The Twin-Cities based consulting firm Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH) is now involved in frac sand projects throughout the region – is this how they think they can live up to their slogan, “Building a Better World for All of Us?”
We are entrusting the care of this extraordinary landscape that has been here for thousands of years to individuals and corporations that value profit over people. We are entrusting a radical reshaping of our regional economy to an outside industry that hides behind shell companies and front men.
Now it’s time to pull back the curtain. We need your help, as citizens and the news media, to do just that.
Johanna Rupprecht is a Land Stewardship Project organizer based in Lewsiton, in southeast Minnesota. She read this statement Aug. 28 during a “Day of Action” calling for greater transparency from the frac sand industry.