Tomorrow, Monday, July 30, 2012, the Goodhue County Planning Advisory Commission will have a Special Meeting on at 6:30 p.m. in the Goodhue County Government Center, Room 301, located at 509 West Fifth Street in Red Wing, Minnesota.
. . .to consider various amendments to the text of the Goodhue County Zoning Ordinance - Article 14 (Mineral Extraction). The amendments to be considered have resulted from the Non-Metallic Mineral Resources Planning Study undertaken by the County to address concerns regarding potential “Silica Sand” Mining, Processing and Transportation Operations. These concern were set forth in an “Interim Ordinance to Temporarily Restrict New Silica Sand Mining Operations” adopted by the County Board on September 6, 2011.
The public hearing for this item was held on July 16, 2012 and was closed at that meeting.
Let's translate that.
In some ways, Goodhue County's Hay Creek Township was the epicenter of the frac sand mining resistance. Residents of the politically conservative rural area near Red Wing mobilized as word of a potential silica sand mining operation run by Windsor Permian, a gas and oil exploration company based in Texas.
Goodhue County citizens secure an interim ordinance in order to study issues surrounding industrial-scale frac-sand mining. A task force was assembled to write a report, and the "amendments" drafted.
Many citizens aren't happy.
The Red Wing Eagle Republican reported in PAC schedules special meeting to make decision on sand:
With a mining moratorium in place since September, the committee has spent the past year researching mines. The committee reported its suggestions to PAC members and county commissioners during a meeting July 11, but Monday was the time for the public to weigh in.
More than 100 citizens filled the room and overflowed into the hallway, many sporting anti-sand stickers to make their stance. They overwhelmingly pushed for a moratorium extension and made it clear that they felt there was more research to be done regarding silica sand mines.
“There was a lot of work done on the mining committee, but it was shallow at best,” Frontenac resident Jim McIlrath said.
“There’s just too much that’s not been done with the Mining Study Committee,” Kathleen Bibus echoed.
As person after person made advanced to a microphone in front of the commission, there became a trend of wanting different types of mining to be treated differently in the ordinance based on what’s being mined. The committee focused on treating all mines equally, but citizens said that silica sand — which is used in a hydraulic process known as fracking — should be differentiated from gravel and other aggregate.
The Post-Bulletin's Red Wing area correspondent Brent Boese reported in Goodhue County commission tables recommendation on silica mining:
Weak. Extremely inadequate. Rushed. Quite lacking.
Those were just a few of the critiques aimed at proposed ordinance amendments that would regulate silica-sand operations during a public hearing Monday before the Goodhue County Planning Advisory Commission. During the hearing, which lasted longer than two hours, 34 of the 35 speakers were critical of the proposed language. The lone positive comment came from a former mining official. There was a standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 people.
With very little discussion, the nine-member board unanimously tabled the issue until July 30 so additional analysis could be done by residents. Representatives from Hay Creek and Florence townships requested more time to prepare a formal response, and numerous people complained that nearly 250 pages of documentation were released only within the past 10 days.
Read both articles. They'll help with understanding the cascade of anti-frac-sand mining letter published in the Red Wing paper. There are letters like Judy Habedank's Seifert's wrong; we can, must be 'choosy':
I felt deep disappointment as I listened to Ted Seifert’s interview with Roseanne Grosso on her radio show June 28. Seifert revealed that not only has he decided to vote in favor of frac sand mining in Goodhue County, he also supports granting a special-use permit that will allow silica sand mining.
His reasoning is that Red Wing needs the mining jobs, that “we can’t be too choosy about the industries we allow to do business here” and, when asked, he could not say how many jobs would be created.
I believe we can and should be choosy. Frac sand mining has been compared to mountaintop coal mining in West Virginia, requiring huge areas be stripped of trees and soil, along with the removal of entire hills and bluffs that make up the beautiful landscape of our beloved rivertown. . . .
Then there's Evan Brown writing in Mining Study Committee wasn't up to the task:
At its recent meeting, the Goodhue County Planning Advisory Commission punted regarding the proposed mining ordinance. Despite seeing over 200 residents packed into the room and despite hearing the thoughtful and well-researched concerns from at least 40 of them to — at the very least — extend the moratorium, the commission seemed incapable of making a decision and so … it punted. It decided to table the issue until its next meeting.
The reason? The commissioners, despite some members voicing their own concerns over the proposed mining ordinance, couldn't come up with any reason to extend the moratorium.
I am very disappointed, and I am worried that tabling is a way for the commission to discuss the proposed ordinance with fewer people in the room. So if you were at this meeting, please make sure you show up again, and if you weren't, please show your support. . . .
Studying the issue would credibly require a real discussion of banning silica sand mining. . . .
Marg Henke adds her voice with Our resources are at stake:
As a young farm girl from flat, south central Minnesota, I did not take many vacations with my family. However, we did take road trips lasting one day. I remember one of those trips, done over 50 years ago, took us to the Red Wing area.
My mother had the song “Pretty Red Wing” at the top of her list to play on various keyboard instruments for church groups, nursing home residents, family and friends. I knew the song was about a young Indian maiden, but I also related it to the city and area of Red Wing with its beautiful bluffs and scenic Mississippi River, and I still do. . . .
I worry that if citizens are not careful about the silica sand mining in our area we will no longer have the beautiful bluffs and scenic drives, clean air and water we have enjoyed. Tourists will not want to come and see the silica dust on their cars or breathe this known carcinogen into their lungs. We must be good stewards of our natural resources so they can remain for our children and grandchildren. . . .
And there's concern for farming. Lynette Nadeau writes in Silica mining would end hope of organic certification:
After attending the public hearing in Red Wing on Monday July 16 and listening to all the testimony of people who so eloquently and specifically spoke to the Goodhue County Planning Advisory Commission I have decided to speak out to the public and commissioners.
I ask the planning commission to say “no” to any silica frac sand mining in Goodhue County and Hay Creek Township.
After 30 years leave of absence, I moved back home where my family has been for more than 200 years. I moved to Red Wing specifically for relocation of my meat goat operation, to use natural browse as feed, and to gain organic status with my animals. Gaining organic status takes many years and is extremely hard to earn.
If this new mining facility does settle here, gaining organic status will not be possible, as silica sand is a known carcinogen. The health of my herd and my family will be compromised and the hundreds of thousands of dollars that I have spent developing my operation in Hay Creek will be wasted, and I will have to move out of the county. . . .
There are letters like Does mining align with our vision? and Planning a trip here? Better come quickly and Extend moratorium and consider the 'zero option' and County should demand full environmental review.
They're worth reading. The chorus of anti-frac sand mining voices is strong. And then there's Richard Johnson extended commentary, Local ordinance won't stop oil companies which concludes:
Any plan to permit mining by ordinance lacks sustainability. Each mine opened results in a continued deterioration of our precious environment. It is accepting short-term profit, and then only for a very few, in exchange for long-term expense. No county can allow this to occur and look at itself in the mirror and say this is the right thing to do.
Drop the ordinance work, declare a new moratorium, ask the governor for a statewide moratorium and to have a commission study the matter and recommend a course of action and to have a "hands-on" part in the Environmental Pollution Agency, their study commission on both frac and silica sand mining and await the outcome, which should resolve this matter that needs a scientific finding, not a political one.
We are only trustees of our land for future generations. This can be done provided the County Board is capable of knowing and "doing the right thing."
Will the commissioners ignore these voices?
Photo: Citizens pack the meeting where the report was tabled until July 30. via Red Wing Eagle.