With little support emerging among legislators for side issues in the coming special session for Northwest Minnesota flood relief, Senator John Sterling (R-Red Wing) plans to introduce legislation next year to mandate a statewide GEIS for frac sand mining.
Back in July, Howe had sent a letter requesting consideration of authorizing and funding a $1 million GEIS of the effects of industrial-scale frac sand mining.
Post-Bulletin Red Wing beat writer Brent Boese reports in Red Wing senator's silica sand proposal finds no traction:
When Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, requested last month that the state fund a generic environmental assessment worksheet on silica sand mining across the state for up to $1 million, it was met with a mix of optimism, doubt and derision.
The first-term senator admitted this week that his proposal doesn't appear to have the support to be heard during the upcoming special legislative session, which will be focused largely on flood-related issues.
While Howe says he doesn't intend to "push the issue" during the special session, he isn't about to let it go, either. He has drafted a bill related to silica sand that he intends to put forward when the new legislative session begins in January. It also requests a generic EIS, but currently has no dollar amount specified. He's hoping to find co-sponsors as the details continue to get fleshed out.
Howe tells the reporter that he wants counties and townships to have solid information upon which to base their local silica sand mining ordinances. Boese points out that the scale of the open-pits and number of permit requests are new to the bucolic region along the Mississippi River.
Please read the article. Boese concludes with a round-up of the state frac sand mining studies and moratoria in Goodhue and Wabasha Counties:
Red Wing's planning commission and sustainability commission have been conducting joint meetings since the city's moratorium was adopted last October. The commissions are preparing a report for the city council with seven recommendations that would "severely limit" frac sand activity within the city limits. The report should be finalized on Aug. 21 so the city council can discuss the matter at its Aug. 27 meeting.
On Thursday, the Goodhue County Board is expected to extend its moratorium, which could delay its ordinance decision for another full year.
Wabasha County, which has enjoyed an open exchange of reference material with its neighbor to the north, extended its own moratorium last month.
Some commentators are urging much more drastic action that what Howe advocates. Peace activist, veteran, and Red Wing "pumpkin man" Bill Habedank writes in Live in the local bubble at everyone's peril:
At the meeting I saw people emotionally involved in their pleas to preserve what they cherish about living in Goodhue County. You can tell they fear what they will lose if frac sand mining takes hold. Frac sand mining will become an insatiable monster like a giant Pac Man creating a landscape such as you see in coal country.
Habedank's position is quite a ways removed from Howe's measured approach, but does illustrate the range of the tenor of the discussion.
Those who are seeking to learn more about the practical tools for local control should consider checking out one of the two workshops offered by Land Stewardship Project on Using township zoning powers to control frac sand mining and harmful developments on Thursday, Aug. 23, in Frontenac at the Sportsman’s Club & Community Center and Thursday, Aug. 30, in Rushford at St. Joseph Catholic Church. Read more at the link.
Photo: Senator John Howe, Republican Red Wing.