The Republican Leader, which covers news in the Preston and Lanesboro area, has published in-depth coverage of the meeting of the Fillmore County Sand Committee meeting on August 27, as well as news of a showing of a rough cut of Jim Tittle's documentory film, "The Price of Sand."
Meanwhile, the Rochester Post Bulletin's Brent Boese reports that Red Wing nears end of its silica sand moratorium.
Lisa Brainard at the Republican Leader covers the case for frac sand mining in Frac sand mining PROS: Will help economy; new plan for pipeline transport and the case against in Frac sand mining CONS: More study is need on economics, health, more.
The PROS? Brainard writes:
Just two audience members spoke in favor of frac sand mining during the Fillmore County Sand Committee meeting held Monday, Aug. 27.
Chad Nolte of Chatfield was one of them. First, he said it was likely only three or four mine sites could be proposed in Fillmore County. Looking at geological maps showed locations restricted by regulations already in place for shoreland, bluffland, 1,000 ft. setbacks by houses and more.
He then talked about a new plan to get sand from the Pilot Mound Township/Fillmore County and Saratoga Township/Winona County adjoining areas to a new transloading railroad facility being considered for construction east of the city of St. Charles, if the city can annex the land.
Nolte explained current plans call for a slurry pipe system to pipe the sand to the proposed rail site. . . .
The other person who spoke in favor of opening Fillmore County to frac sand mining, Charles Ruen accused the opposition of fear-mongering:
Ruen said, "We have a highly desirable product to use (for fracking). And you're here using scare tactics to scare people that hundreds and hundreds of mines will be in the county.
"It's disconcerting to me."
A pair of engineers claimed that Fillmore County's sand is low quality for fracking, prompting citizens to dispute their claim:
Ron Garrison, a geologist with Milestone Materials who was present with Tara Wetzel, a civil engineer with the same company, said Fillmore County has only low quality frac sand from the St. Peter layer.
"It is coarser, but very thin. That majority unit of Fillmore County is too fine for the market right now... If I was looking for frac sand, I wouldn't look in Fillmore County. I'd be looking in Wisconsin."
Donna Buckbee of Houston County commented, "We in Houston County were told in February they didn't want our sand. Yet tomorrow night (which was Tuesday, Aug. 28) Minnesota Sands will be in Caledonia for a meeting. Huh... 'measly sand.'"
Rita LeDuc of Pilot Mound Township commented to Garrison, "Keep in mind technologies are changing. There is talk about resin coating the sand to use a lesser grade of sand."
Chad Nolte later also commented about Garrison, saying he should talk in the "percentage" of useable frac sand. He said the industry wants 20 to 40 (mesh size). This area has more 30 to 50 and 40 to 70 frac sand. "If the natural gas market comes back strong, there will be a strong demand for 40 to 70 sand. Do you agree, sir?"
In the CON article, Brainard notes that the opposition to frac mining in Fillmore County is growing. She reports:
A few months ago the committee - tasked with looking into frac sand mining and updating or creating new ordinances to deal with the booming industry eyeing Fillmore County - was sailing right along.
At earlier public meetings with few in the audience, things moved quickly as issues were discussed and relevant speakers invited to share information. Committee members had discussed a possibility of ending the one-year moratorium early. September had been mentioned.
However, it now seems for every step forward, the committee takes two steps back. County residents who've recently become involved - many from the Lanesboro area - have come to the meetings with more questions and concerns on issues they'd like to see addressed during the moratorium's study time.
The most recent regularly scheduled three-hour meeting, running from 9 a.m. until noon on Monday, Aug. 27, included a question near the end asking about the moratorium timeline and if the committee was looking to end it early.
The article looks at the overwhelming testimony against mining. Local leaders and business people pondered the economic impact on industrial scale mining on towns like Lanesboro, a tourist destination.
Other testifying worried about ways that truck traffic could ruin the area's beautiful country roads. Other raised issued about water quality, as the frac sand industry uses large amounts of water to processing the extracted silica sand. Health issues surrouding silica troubled others, while some asked about the size of the mines themselves.
Earlier in August, a rough cut of The Price of Sand was shown in Lanesboro, Brainard reports in Documentary film event leads to even more questions on frac sand mines:
"Don't give your power away," said Dianne Carey of Rochester.
Looking around the nearly packed St. Mane Theatre in Lanesboro the evening of Aug. 17, she added, "You are the people you can trust."
Carey, a former resident of Wisconsin - which has seen an explosion in the growth of frac sand mines - was attending a "Third Friday Documentary" series offering production shorts from the documentary "The Price of Sand."
The film by director Jim Tittle of St. Paul says it tries to answer the question, "What is the real price of frac sand ... not just in dollars, but in friendships, the community and the future of our region."
It came about a year ago, when an oil company bought a tract of land near the house of Tittle's mother in rural Goodhue County. The prospect of an open pit mine led to the formation of an opposition group, a series of public meetings and a temporary county moratorium on frac sand mining.
After the film concluded and people were discussing it outside, another area resident, who wished not to be named, said of the event and ensuing discussion, "You feel like you're in a brotherhood. You're not alone." The last comment, along with themes at the meeting, showed an audience caring for this area's land, health, road quality and more, and casting a critical eye at frac sand mining. . . .
Check out the whole thing at the Republican Leader.
Reading the articles together, it's obvious that opposition to frac sand mining is well organized and well-informed in Fillmore County. Given the area's leadership in sustainable rural development with towns like Lanesboro serving as the poster child for what can be done, it's unlikely that these folks with go down without a fight.
As required by law, Red Wing is running out of time for coming to grips with the frac sand mining as Brent Boese reports in Red Wing nears end of its silica sand moratorium. Boese writes:
The Red Wing City Council accepted a lengthy report on silica sand Monday night that sets up a veritable sprint to the finish before the city's one-year moratorium expires. The interim ordinance runs through Oct. 28 and can't be extended.
The 74-page document will likely be the guide used by the city to update its ordinance for all silica sand-related activities. It was developed jointly by the city's planning commission and sustainability commission over the last nine months after intensive study and debate. Both commissioners unanimously supported the report, which presents six recommendations to the city council that would, according to city council member Lisa Bayley, "severely regulate where and how this type of activity can take place."
Red Wing is one of many government entities in southeast Minnesota struggling to regulate the health, environmental and health concerns associated with the high-intensity industry; the booming hydraulic fracturing process requires the hard, perfectly round particulates common in this region to extract oil and natural gas. . . .
Read the rest of Boese's article at the PB. While Red Wing's moratorium is coming to an end, the one for the rest of the county remains in effect for another year, and Hay Creek Township's board of supervisors put an interim ordinance into place this month. Reservations about the frac sand industry are entrenched in Minnesota, and unlike Wisconsin, citizens are ahead of the outslaught of industrial scale pits.
Photo: Aerial view of a sand mine in Wisconsin. Photo by Jim Tittle.