FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Minnesota Mayor and Fracking Industry Lobbyist Resigns

by STEVE HORN

Usually “revolving door” connotes a transition from a stint as a public official into one as a corporate lobbyist or vice versa.

In the case of Red Wing, MN – a southeastern Minnesota town of 16,459 located along the Mississippi River – its Mayor Dennis Egan actually obtained a gig as head lobbyist for the frac sand industry trade group Minnesota Industrial Sand Council while serving as the city’s Mayor. The controversy that unfolded after this was exposed has motivated Egan to resign as Red Wing’s Mayor, effective April 1.

Without the fine-grained silica frac sand found within “Sand Land” (or manufactured ceramnic proppants resembling it), there is no hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for the oil and gas embedded within shale rock deposits. In other words, frac sand mining is the “cradle” while burning gas for home-heating and other purposes is the “grave.”

Egan is also the former head of Red Wing’s Chamber of Commerce and the public relations firm he runs, Egan Public Affairs, is a Chamber member both at the Red Wing- and state-level. One of his other lobbying clients is Altria, which Big Tobacco’s Phillip Morris renamed itself in Feb. 2003 during its rebranding process with the help of PR powerhouse, Burson-Marsteller.

Many citizens living within the conflines of “Sand Land” in Minnesota, WisconsinIowa, Texas, and Arkansas are deeply concerned about the ecological impacts of frac sand mining and the fracking at-large the sand enables.

Direct respiratory exposure to silica sand can lead to development of silicosis, a lung disease that can lead to lung cancer, akin to exposure to the tobacco smoke that Egan lobbies on behalf of. Exposure to silica sand was deemed a workplace hazard by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in a June 2012 report.

Egan’s Frac Sand Ties Engender Citizen, City Council Backlash

Given this “price of sand,” residents reacted with outrage about the conflict-of-interest and started circulating a recall petition to send Egan packing as Mayor.

So too did Red Wing’s City Council, with three of its members demanding Egan resign at a Feb. 11 meeting and the City Council at-large voting unanimously at that same meeting to hire an outside investigator to dig deeper into the entirety of Egan’s conflicts-of-interest.

The brewing dramatic three-week-old scandal has come to a close, though, as Egan announced he will step down from his mayoral post.

“I believe that a mayor must live to a higher standard than just avoiding conflicts of interest,” he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “If a mayor’s activities serve as a distraction or roadblock for the city, the public is not well-served.”

Red Wing’s City Council, in turn, decided to drop the investigation on Egan and the recall petition is now null-and-void.

“We understand his decision and wish him well in his new position,” Red Wing City Council President Lisa Bayley told Minnesota Public Radio. “I think he had to make that decision — what we wanted to do. I just don’t think the two positions were compatible and he needed to pick something.”

Red Wing resident and recall petitioner Dale Hanson told the Star-Tribune that he believes this investigation should proceed regardless of Egan’s choice to step down as Mayor “to ensure that if there was corruption, ethics violations, or other vital issues that we have an accurate sense of how much damage may have been done.”

The announcement comes in the aftermath of a major Feb. 20 MN state Senate hearing on frac sand mining. Another one is slated for Feb. 26.

“Heads in the Sand”: Egan Not Alone in Cashing in on Frac Sand Boom

As it turns out, the sordid truth is that corruption and ethics violations with regards to frac sand mining and local governments go far above and beyond Egan and Red Wing. In a Dec. 26 story, the Star-Tribune explained that “at least five public officials in three counties are trying to make money from frac sand.”

Despite this reality and the enormous cradle-to-grave ecological costs and consequences of fracking, public officials have their “heads in the sand” – both literally and figuratively – with regards to the frac sand mining boom.

Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog.

Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, where this piece first appeared.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail