A group of concerned residents doesn't think an 18-month moratorium on frac-sand mining goes far enough to protect the citizens of Winneshiek County.

At Monday's meeting of the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors, Steve Luse, representing the newly formed Community Rights Alliance, prepped the Board for an ordinance his group will be presenting at next week's meeting.

The proposed ordinance would ban the extraction of frac sand in the county, "declaring the rights of the citizens of the county as primary over the rights of corporations."

The problem

Luse next noted his group has a problem with a recently proposed ordinance on frac-sand mining, because despite limitations it puts on miners, it still allows the activity.

"Codifying it or placing it in zoning, makes it legal," said Luse following the meeting.

He said the idea of the ordinance that has already been proposed to the county is that once the mining is approved, there will be enough encumbrances that mining cannot be easily done.

Luse said there is too much at stake for the fossil-based carbon fuel industry to be dissuaded by such ordinances.

"They have a wealth of corporate lawyers who know how to use their acquired commerce clause rights to overcome any such encumbrances," said Luse.

A new approach

Luse said his group is working in collaboration with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a principal advisor to many community groups.

"This is a shift from merely regulating corporate harms to stopping them by asserting local democratic control," said Luse.

CELDF works to establish community rights so that communities are empowered to protect the health, safety and welfare of their residents and the natural environment, and establish environmental and economic sustainability.

Luse said since its formation in 1995, CELDF has helped over 160 communities approve rights-based ordinances.

"They were successful in helping the city of Pittsburgh to stop fracking," he said.

Working together

Luse said his purpose of attending Monday's meeting was to make the supervisors aware of what the Community Rights Alliance is doing, "so you're not blindsided."

"We want to make you aware of our effort to make the future be a sustainable, economic reality, working closely with you to answer your questions," said Luse.

Luse said his group is a volunteer organization of about 15 people who share the desire to have a positive future in Winneshiek County.

Luse said next week the group plans to present the Board with the new ordinance, which is currently being reviewed by legal counsel. After that, the Community Rights Alliance plans to start a petition drive with a goal of 2,000 signatures of county residents.

"We thank you for your efforts on the denial of the expansion of Milennium Ag. While you voted unanimously to petition them (the Iowa Department of Natural Resources) to support local desires, you were turned down, ignored and deemed irrelevant," said Luse of a recent vote by the Board to recommend the DNR deny the expansion of a confined animal feeding operation (*CAFO) near Hesper.

"We find the notion of the disregard for local officials to be disdainful," said Luse.