Wednesday at 3:00 p.m., the Minnesota senate State and Local Government committee will meet to consider the Family Child Care Providers Representation Act, and to take testimony on the parts of the frac sand mining bill, S.F. 786, related to state and local government.
The bill calls for a year-long Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS), a statewide moratorium on new projects during the GEIS, the creation of a Southeastern Minnesota silica sand mining board and other measures.
What have editorial boards across Southern Minnesota written about the bill (others on the industry are on the way, we're told, and there's already a house bill introduced to protect wellheads and scientific and natural areas in the region).
In the heart of the sand lands, the Winona Daily News favors the bill. Speaking for the editorial board in Only one chance, Jerome Christenson writes:
We’ll only have one chance to get it right.
In testimony before his colleagues, Sen. Matt Schmit likened the sudden interest in silica sand mining to a new gold rush, but cautioned that while there may be gold in “them thar hills” how we go about getting it will shape those hills and the entire region for decades to come.
Schmit’s bill -- SF 786 -- will give the people ofMinnesotaa chance to get it right. It gives state agencies and local governments up to a year to develop and put in place uniform, statewide guidelines and regulations for silica sand mining inMinnesota. The bill passed its first hurdle Tuesday when it was approved by the Senate Environment and Energy committee on an 8 - 4 vote that split along party lines and now continues through the legislative gauntlet.
We urge support for Schmit’s bill -- and congratulate the rookie legislator for his work. . . .
Read the whole thing at the WDN. On the western edge of Minnesota's silica sand zone, the New Ulm Journal's board writes in Time for study of frac sand mining:
People who live in the region, though, are concerned about this boom. What effect will frac sand mining have on their land, on their air quality, on their roads and rail lines?
It is certainly time for the state to conduct a study on the issue, to determine what will be allowable mining practices, and what rules need to be in place to protect those who will live through the mining and its aftermath.
The state should undertake this study quickly and do a thorough, yet expeditious job of it.
Mining is important to the state, and so are Minnesota's natural resources. We can't afford risk the latter in a rush to feed the oil boom.
One of the strengths of Schmit's bill is that it outlines the "scoping" of the GEIS; earlier studies for the forest industry and livestock feedlots were not so well-defined and so lingered on.
Moving out of the sand belt to what Bluestem jokingly labels "the bad," we turn to the Journal's sister paper, the more conservative Fairmont Sentinel, home to Senator Julie "Rural Minnesota Should Smell Bad and Look Awful" Rosen.
In Don’t laws exist now to oversee these mines? the board writes:
It is horrifying to see the state of Minnesota ready to jump in to slow down, or stop, the sand mining taking place in the southeastern part of the state. A state Senate committee this week OK'd a one-year moratorium on new silica sand mines. . . .
. . Minnesota needs to make sure sand mines are operated safely. It also needs to make sure they are free to operate.
We find it horrifying to imagine Southern Minnesota's river bluffs and rolling hills ending up looking like Wisconsin's pillaged hills, lined by corrupted local officials, with rivers and groundwater threatened, while little return comes back to local communities.
And finally: the fugly.
The Mankato Free Press editorial board produced a piece that about as fugly as it gets. Six days after the state's first hearing on issues related to industrial February 25, 2013 Our View: Review sand mining regulation
— The mere term "frac sand" conjures danger in many people's minds. The reason is the concerns that have been raised about fracking, in which the sand and a mixture of chemicals are injected into oil wells to help draw more oil from the ground.
That's misleading to put it charitably. The issues being brought up about "frac sand" in Minnesota have little to do with fracking, although industrial sand mining advocates would love to make folks imagine that's the problem.
As Bluestem has noted repeatedly, happy sparkleponies could shoot from oil and gas fracking rigs bearing world peace and kittens for everyone, but the environmental, health, safety and long-term economic development issues related to industrial-scale sand mining will remain.
There is no fracking done in Minnesota but the fine, hard silica sand is abundant in many bluff regions of the state, including here in the Minnesota River valley and around Red Wing and Winona.
That means mining companies are eager to extract the valuable sand, which is in high demand. Locally, the Jordan Sands project is being considered north of Mankato in a former limestone quarry. Some neighbors in the area and some other residents oppose the project.
The mining of silica sand is hardly new to the area. Unimin in Ottawa has been mining silica for use in glass making and more recently for fracking for decades with little if any controversy.
This is simply historical revisionism. The Ottawa plant was called out by architects and historical preservationists for "endangering" the historic village. And then there's the backstory of the preservation of the Kasota Prairie--but the Free Press simply doesn't mention Unimin's other mine. While there is cooperation now, it took a court case to save just a part of a wild pasqueflower prairie.
Odd, given that it's the one just one river town away, unlike Ottawa.
But putting a moratorium on mining -- absent any credible evidence of negative effects -- unnecessarily harms economic development. Local governments are still best for deciding their local land-use rules and putting reasonable restrictions on companies. If they choose to permit a sand mining operation, any state standards that are developed can and will be applied to those operations.
It's easy to dismiss "credible evidence." Just pretend there's no local corruption, corporate bullying, permit violations or the other concerns attending the process.
We urge the committee to vote for Schmit's bill tomorrow--and for the Minnesota House to get moving on its version of the bill. This is the time to get it right.
Photo:A frac sand mine in Wisconsin.
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