Non-Metallic Mining takes Wisconsin by Dust Cloud! – Editorial

This is the start of a series about frac sand mining.  It is a contentious issue.  Is it rampant exploitation and environmental damage, or simple economic growth?  I believe it is of concern to Pagans because whatever you think of it, it is likely going to directly change the landscape you encounter when you leave the city. This article is mainly background (please investigate the many hot links) , but you need it to understand the issue.

Frac Sand Minephoto: La Crosse Tribune

Frac Sand Mine
photo: La Crosse Tribune

First, you need fracking sand to engage in “fracking”.  Second, from Rueters, Houston, TX. , “There’s been a sand shortage in the U.S. … Those who have sand or have access to sand can pretty much charge what they want.”  So there’s lots of money at stake.

photo: About.com

photo: About.com

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” as it is called, is taking place in many parts of our country, particularly North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas.  It is usually either touted as the miracle technological solution to gain economic growth and energy independence, or condemned as a reckless exploitation of resources that endangers our ground water, air, and land, and has way too many unknowns associated with its environmental and geologic effects. What is confirmed is this highly profitable method of gaining trapped oil from tightly bound deep shale deposits, not accessible with conventional drilling methods has exploded as a phenomena nationwide. This is what the ‘Keystone pipeline” expansion is proposed for;  to get fracked oil from North Dakota and Canada to Texas refineries. National Geographic has a headline story about it in their March, 2013 issue. While fracking has been used in the development of America’s natural gas resources for nearly 60 years. The development of horizontal drilling process has allowed its use to rapidly expand and include oil drilling. It is a hidden process, tightly held as corporate proprietary property, while leaving a small footprint above ground and visible to the public. Fracking boomed after the Energy Policy Act in 2005 exempted oil and gas production from compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air and the Clean Water Act. Also, the CERCLA Superfund Act doesn’t cover fracking sites.

historyoffrackin

History of Fracking

The basic fracking process is to drill down through the water table, maybe 2000 feet or so until you hit the layer of shale where the oil lies trapped. You then drill sideways within the layer of shale. As you proceed, a slurry of silica sand, water, and proprietary chemicals (some known carcinogens) is rammed out a  porus drill point, “fracturing” the shale so the oil is released and can be pumped out (mixed with water and chemicals). This also releases natural gas. The natural gas is being flared off at the well by burning, it is not apparently profitable enough to collect it. This is why the ND night sky is lit up like Chicago. News stories of inflammable faucets and large stores of chemical laden water waiting to be treated and pumped back down through the water table into deep repository holes,  accompanies the process.

Unsaid, but many think, “It is only North Dakota, if my gasoline is cheaper and American drilled, it is a small price to pay for oil self-reliance and “national security”. It is so easy to talk this way when it happens somewhere else. Wisconsin happens to be extremely rich in the silica sand used in this process, and this year that sand wealth has brought these issues smack into our face.

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Court Rules Flambeau, Wisconsin ‘Model Mine’ Violated Clean Water Act

A federal court ruled Tuesday that Flambeau Mining Company (FMC) violated the Clean Water Act on numerous occasions by allowing pollution from its Flambeau Mine site, near Ladysmith, Wis., to enter the Flambeau River and a nearby tributary known as Stream C.
The lawsuit was filed early last year by the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council (WRPC), the Center for Biological Diversity, and Laura Gauger. The complaint charged that Flambeau Mining Company (a subsidiary of Kennecott Minerals Company / Rio Tinto) was violating the Clean Water Act by discharging storm water runoff containing pollutants, including toxic metals like copper and zinc, from a detention basin known as a biofilter.

Flambeau Mine in September 1994, when heavy rains caused flooding at the mine site.

The federal Clean Water Act makes it unlawful to discharge pollutants from a point source to waters of the United States without a permit issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”).  Both the U.S. EPA and the DNR (which has been delegated authority to issue NPDES permits in Wisconsin under its parallel program, the WPDES) commonly issue permits to point-source discharges of industrial stormwater such as the discharge from FMC’s biofilter.  The most important function of an NPDES permit is to ensure that all applicable water quality standards are maintained. FMC never had an NPDES permit authorizing the discharge of copper, zinc, iron, and other pollutants from the biofilter to Stream C, and therefore was in violation of the Clean Water Act.
 

Deeply Rooted – Pagan Land, a Do-ocracy Intentional Community

I approached the Deeply Rooted organizational booth at the Pagan Spirit Gathering to find the story of the Pagan land community located between Medford and Wausau, Wisconsin.

Who should I ask about Deeply Rooted?      The reply…

“Talk to Wade, he is the founder. He has had the truest intention of anyone that I have ever met, without any ulterior motives. He wants a strong, supportive, interactive web of community. A network that is strong, and diverse, and of many spiritual paths. He has promoted the idea that just because you may not like someone, does not mean you shouldn’t have their back, if it is for the greater good of a community.”

How did Deeply Rooted come about?

Wade (after much humble disclaiming) ;

My great-great grandparents bought numerous plots of land just in the north of Wisconsin in the 1890’s. Horrible farmland, that failed and was down to 160 acres by the 1920’s. My great uncles held it and it was going into foreclosure. They sought family help and my parents were able to step in and buy the land. A portion was to be my eventual inheritance, and I got them to deed 40 acres over to me, and the balance was put in a state forest restoration program. I donated the forty acres I had to Deeply Rooted, a 501C3-R religious organization. We have all the IRS bells and whistles attached. We applied in 1999 and it took a year and a half. We officially incorporated in the February of 2000. That class is for a church or other religious organization. Continue reading

Pagans in Prison – Religious Volunteer In Wisconsin

Wade Mueller is a religious volunteer for Pagans in seven Wisconsin Correctional Institutions. He is tired, but receives so much from his prison experience, and sees such a need, that he can’t stop if it means letting his people down.

 Do you actively advocate for an inmates religious rights or requests?

 I have to stay away from that as I have absolutely no power as a volunteer aid, and so am in a very precarious position. I tend to be polite and courteous in order to get entry and or anything at all with the inmates. Once inside I act as a priest, a facilitator, they cannot even get together as a group unless I come in. I tell the guys, “What do you want to do with this time?”. Some really want to do in-depth, hard-core rituals. Then I encourage and help them write their own rituals, and then just watch over and maybe help them. I may facilitate discussion, help with meditation. It is different every time depending on who shows up. There are so many different paths and traditions that show up, and there is often conflict.
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Pagans in Prison – Interview with Patrick McCollum

This begins a series about Pagans in Prison, and those who ‘minister’ to them.  Religious volunteers report most Pagan prisoners find their Pagan path once they are incarcerated. The loss of freedom that prison represents is a strong motivator to find some meaning in life, and Pagan spirituality often offers the most relevant choice.  Prisoners are invisible to us, unless they get publicity.  I hope this series increases our  awareness of this part of our community for, sooner or later, many will return to our general society, and look for spiritual support.

Patrick McCollum

What is critical to understand within this topic, is the difference between loss of freedom, and loss of civil rights. Prisoners retain some civil rights even while in prison. Our Constitution’s First Amendment is about religious freedom, and within bounds, remains in force for those incarcerated.  I had the opportunity to interview one of the foremost authorities regarding religious civil rights and prison, and Patrick McCollum also happens to be a Pagan.  Read his qualifications at the end of this interview!

 There are prisoners convicted of state and federal crimes, often mixed together in state institutions, does it matter?

The principles are exactly the same in the law. In federal prisons there are some additional provisions that grant additional rights, more than state prison systems, but what I’ll talk about is applicable to both systems.

What are a prisoners civil rights regarding religion in prison?

There was a law upheld by the Supreme Court (unanimous) in 2005, called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, (RLUIPA)  which laid out the basics of what religious accommodation prisoner of all faiths have right to. What the act says is that the state is required to accommodate each and every inmates religious need.

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