At today's pre-session press briefing, PIM's Charley Shaw asked what issues the Governor and caucus leaders saw as important for rural Minnesota. The AP reports in Bipartisanship still elusive at Minn. Capitol:
Dayton and Thissen said the Legislature might consider new regulations for sand mining in southeastern Minnesota, as the oil and gas extraction process known as "fracking" has created a huge U.S. market for the sand. The sand mining process has created concern about possible health effects, noise and truck traffic and environmental damage.
Doug Grow has more in Minnesota leaders off to a rocky start at legislative ‘preview’:
Sand mining for purposes of fracking also will likely become a controversial issue this session.
Currently, most of that mining is done in Wisconsin, but there already is impact heavy impact on Minnesota roads as the sand is transported to North Dakota oil fields.
At the moment, there is a hodge-podge of local rules regarding the sand mining in Minnesota, including moratoriums on mining in some areas.
Dayton compared the fracking issue to the debate over massive feedlots that dominated rural Minnesota a few years ago.
“I don’t want it [sand mining] to be like feed lots where the industry got ahead of government,” Dayton said.
Already the issue has led citizens to commit civil disobedience and raise heated arguments at public meetings. For its part, the frac sand industry has hired more lobbyists; one friend active in policy-making has said that a frac sand industry lobbyists asked "how do we make local control go away?"
Some frac sand mining opponents have asked for a state-wide moratorium; others support a statewide Generic Environmental Impact Study (GEIS). Yet another idea is a state extraction fee for mining operations that would be invested for rural development and reclamation, similar to the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB). The later idea was suggested by language proposed by two DFL legislators last session:
In the recent legislative session, two legislators proposed amendments to the omnibus environment bill. Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, proposed adding the condition that frac sand companies pay a fee into an account that counties could use to cover reclamation costs. Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, proposed increasing the aggregate tax to pay the cost of public infrastructure improvements needed as a result of frac sand mining. Neither amendment got very far...
With the DFL in control, that might change. Some combination of moratorium, GEIS, and added fees may be in the works.
Via the Uptake, here's footage of the frac sand discussion today:
Photo: A frac sand mine in Wisconsin. Photo by Jim Tittle. An old college friend, Tittle was interviewed for a recent Huffington Post feature about frac sand mining in Wisconsin, Does Frac Sand Mining Rush In Wisconsin Threaten Public Health?
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