Wednesday, March 13, the Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on South St. Paul DFL Representative Rick Hansen's HF906, a bill that requires silica sand mining model standards and criteria development, establishes silica sand technical assistance, requires administrative rules required, and appropriates money for these tasks.
Unlike Red Wing DFL Senator Matt Schmit's SF786, Hansen's bill does not authorize a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) or a one-year moratorium while the GEIS is conducted.
While industrial sand mining representatives had some praise for the bill, neither they nor Republicans on the committee like the involvement of the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) as the agency in charge of developing standards or coordinating technical assistance.
Rather, they like HF1367, the bill introduced by Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) which pointedly doesn't include the EBQ. Sources tell Bluestem that the industry and Republicans fear the presence on the EQB of environmentalists and former legislators Ellen Anderson and Katie Knuth.
However, since the real bugabear is the moratorium in Schmit's bill, they were able to utter kind words about Hansen's bill--before standing in the back of State Office Building 200 like scavengers while two rival lions of the House sparred.
Representative Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) attempted to substitute the Kelly bill for the Hansen bill, claiming that there was no need for the board's involvement, since four state agencies could attend to the technical details. HF906, he claimed, only created more bureaucracy.
Hansen pushed back that the Kelly bill itself created a new board, while HF906 did not, and a panel of agency staff assembled before the committe agreed with Hansen. McNamara withdrew his amendment and the bill passed on an 8 to 6 partisan roll call vote. It now moves on to the MN House Government Operations committee.
The expansion of industrial scale silica sand mining in Minnesota has galvanized citizen concern in Southeast Minnesota's driftless area as residents watch what they see as a "wild west" of strip mining in the badger state. At their request, counties, towns and townships have enacted moratoria while they review the industry.
The sheer scale of the projects, some of which sprawl across three counties, have led citizens and local government to call for regulatory relief. The industry maintains that the projects will create jobs while engaging in the "new energy revolution" of fracking for oil and gas.
Here's a Youtube of the second part of the hearing. Bluestem will post excerpts of the testimony and action as the Uptake pulls them for us.
Photo: A frac sand mine in Wisconsin.
If you appreciate reading posts on Bluestem Prairie, consider making a donation via paypal: