The Progressive: Communities Take the Lead in Battling Frac Sand Mines

Includes input from Thomas Pearson, author of WHEN THE HILLS ARE GONE.

When the Hills Are Gone (Thomas Pearson)Fracking has upended the U.S. energy economy and raises unsettling environmental questions. While there is no fracking in Wisconsin, the state’s western counties provide much of the sand used in the process. Between 2007 and 2015, a sand rush established 101 active and permitted mines and dozens of processing and rail facilities. State data lists ninety-two active and thirty-two inactive facilities, and four undergoing reclamation. Nearly half are in just three counties: Trempealeau, Barron, and Jackson.


Thomas Pearson, a cultural anthropologist teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, joined the frac sand resistance in his new hometown of Menomonie, documenting the movement in When the Hills Are Gone: Frac Sand Mining and the Struggle for Community, to be published this fall by the University of Minnesota Press. 

“Many people start attending hearings and town meetings, often for the first time, and expect their voices to be heard,” he says. “When they encountered the influence of corporate interests and, especially four or five years ago, the aura of inevitability around it, people became very frustrated.”

Some walked away but others held firm, asking tougher questions. “It put them on a very different path of thinking about politics, their community, democracy, the environment,” Pearson says. “Those places have been more successful at having actual influence over whether or not mining occurs and under what circumstances.”


Read the full article.

Published in: The Progressive
By: Erik Ness