When the fracking boys need your land: how the goons get around the law

Free market types proclaim the sacred rights of private property, unless they need your land for mining

Lasalle County IL frac sand mining The way to get around LaSalle County’s ban on mining on farmlands, is to takeover the farmland and zone it to be no longer farmland. Then tear it up.

LaSalle County, Illinois has some good things going for it, including a small natural gem called Starved Rock State Park on the Illinois River and some of the most fertile soil in the world. But the farms and the tourism business are getting the shaft as the fracking industry pursues another local resource: sand. Specifically, the special kind of “frac” sand needed to feed the national oil and gas drilling frenzy that is making a few people rich, and screwing up a lot of rural places permanently.There is lots of high quality silica in LaSalle county and the fracking boys need it. Frac sand is a component of the fracking fluid that gets injected deep into underground wells, with each new well requiring millions of gallons. The booming industry has a voracious appetite for the stuff: hundreds of trailer loads per day for a typical mine.

The problem is that LaSalle County law bans mining on farmland, we hope for obvious reasons. But when money comes to town, there is always a work around. In LaSalle County, all you have to do it get a town to annex the farmland (another word for legal theft) and then rezone it. Like for mining.

When a sand mine comes to your neighborhood, you can expect round the clock operations: heavy truck traffic, toxic silica dust that evening the mining companies admit is carcinogenic, and blasting with anhydrous ammonia. About 15 to 20 feet of topsoil and clay is scraped from the land, which is rendered sterile forever.

There is plenty of opposition to the annexation of farmland and the subsequent mining that will destroy the complexion of the community. But a temporary boom will accompany the desecration of the land and big money for the right people. When mining or drilling interests come to economically challenged places, some see the predatory process as a means to jobs and prosperity, others see it as naked greed and abuse of power. But the end results are inevitably the same.

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