While some city, county and township governments faced with corporate proposals to mine frac sand in Minnesota have enacted interim ordinances (moratorium) in order to address health, safety, traffic and environmental concerns raised by industrial scale sand mining, the state of Minnesota has yet to put any sort of brakes on the industry.
Bluestem guesses that's news to Nathan Neitzell, Republican candidate running for the Minnesota House in District 27B. Covering a debate in the Austin Daily News, staff writer Sarah Stultz reports:
Neitzell said he would support opening up restrictions on frac sand and noted that to be able to help people be able to afford their energy, the country shouldn’t be shipping coal to China or buying oil from across the ocean.
Poppe said she thinks it is important to find a balance, while also considering the effect on the environment.
Anderson said he, too, thinks the state needs to have a balanced approach, but questions whether technology is available for more green energy.
Sparks thinks there needs to be a balanced approach but mentioned the need to have all options on the table moving forward.
What was Neitzell advocating? Elimination of the ability of local government to write zoning rules?
Is he opposed to fellow Republican John Sterling Howe's proposal for the State of Minnesota to conduct a statewide Generic Environmental Impact Studies (GEIS)? In Candidates discuss budget, constitutional amendments, Red Wing Eagle staff writer Sarah Gorvin reported that Senate District 21 candidates John Howe and Matt Schmit and House District 21A candidates shared ideas about silica sand mining:
All candidates agreed that the state should be involved in the silica sand mining debate, but that its role should be limited to conducting studies and providing local governments with information. Counties and cities, the candidates said, should ultimately make the decision on whether to allow mining in their areas.
“We want to make sure that we keep local control,” Kelly said, echoing statements made by the other three candidates.
Who agrees with Neitzel? No surprise there: Anti-Black Walnut Tree Warrior Steve Drazkowski. Winona Daily News staff writer Mary Juhl reports in Area candidates debate at forum:
Candidates also weighed in on the region’s growing frac sand mining industry. Howe and Montplaisir both said they advocate for local control, with Howe reminding attendees that he has called for a statewide intensive environmental review that would halt all new operations in order to further study the industry.
Drazkowski said he supports frac sand mining.
“I would work to encourage the job growth that this mining industry has a potential to bring to this area,” Drazkowski said.
Schmit said he thinks state agencies need to provide more information and conduct more research to aid local municipalities.
Winona area legislative candidates will debate later this month and it's likely the issue will come up.
Questions about frac sand mining are also hot button issues in city and county candidate forums. At the Red Wing Republican Eagle, staff writer Regan Carstensen reports in Frac sand, county budget lead candidate concerns:
Questions at a forum for Goodhue County Board District 5 candidates covered everything from frac sand mining to the county budget.
The forum was one of two hosted by the Red Wing League of Women Voters Thursday night, with the second featuring Red Wing School Board candidates.
Incumbent Ted Seifert and challenger Paul Drotos were in the hot seats, explaining their stances on a number of issues facing Goodhue County today and over the next four years.
Seifert has held a position on the County Board since 2003 and said he wants to continue the work he’s been doing, while Drotos said he’s running for county commissioner for the first time because he wants to keep frac sand mining from entering local communities.
One of the questions at the forum touched on that topic specifically, asking, “What should Goodhue County’s policy be on frac sand mining?”
Drotos said he wants to see a flat out ban of the practice, for the sake of personal health, environmental health “and the fact that Goodhue County is a beautiful place and it should remain that way.”
Seifert called Drotos’ position “extreme” and differed in the way he would handle frac sand mining.
“I take a balanced, moderate position,” he said.
Seifert said he would vote in favor of a ban, but only if the county could not first come up with a zoning ordinance that would sufficiently protect the health and safety of its citizens.
Voters in Wisconsin are also scrutinizing candidates' positions on regulating frac sand mining. Wisconsin Public Radio reports in "67th State Assembly District Candidate Forum:"
The West Side featured candidates from the 67th State Assembly District, incumbent Tom Larson (R-Colfax) and Deb Bieging (D-Chippewa Falls), during a live candidate forum. Guests talked about their stances on things like job creation, state funding levels for education, health care and frac sand mining.
The issue also came up in the "68th State Assembly District Candidate Forum:"
The West Side featured candidates from the 68th State Assembly District, incumbent Kathy Bernier (R-Lake Hallie) and Judy Smriga (D-Thorp). Candidates fielded a range of questions on issues like education spending, frac sand mining, partisan redistricting and transportation funding.
Will the issue matter at the polls? Stay tuned.
Photo: Wisconsin frac sand mine. Photo by Jim Tittle.