Reading around Southern Minnesota's newspapers this afternoon, it's clear--from Red Wing and Winona to Mankato--that the promise of legislative relief at the state capitol has not led to a ceasefire in the field.
Earlier in the week, the Red Wing Republican Eagle reported in Council accepts mayor's resignation:
Red Wing City Council voted 4-1 to accept the resignation letter of Mayor Dennis Egan Monday night.
Egan made no comment as the motion was brought up for discussion. . . .
Read the entire story at the RWRE. Egan resigned, effective April 1, after he was roundly criticized for accepting a position as the executive director of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council to lobby for the industry. The city has frequently been at odds over mining, and the council has adopted a resolution supporting a statewide Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and one-year moratorium.
In this weekend's paper, reader Michelle Meyer responds to Egan's defenders in Stop painting Egan as a martyr:
Lately, I've read a slurry of letters that attempt to diminish the severity of Mayor Dennis Egan’s ethical breech of conduct in accepting a lobbying position with the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council. The writers make inflated references to lynch mobs, freedom, shame, and disrespect. The most absurd is that he took his new position to simply “feed his family.”
Such exaggerated versions of Egan’s victimhood and innocence and Egan’s own exploitation of his political position for personal gain is the real shame here. Red Wing citizens reacted no differently than the rest of an appalled Minnesota at the news that our mayor took a job lobbying on behalf of a mining council whose mission directly conflicts with city ordinances . . .
Check out the rest at the Eagle. The Winona Daily News continues its slightly off coverage of the issue with Miller pitches frac sand bill alternative:
Winona state Sen. Jeremy Miller introduced legislation this week that he says will keep frac sand permitting decisions in the hands of local governments while giving them greater access to state resources.
Miller is proposing the formation of a Silica Sand Technical Advisory Council, which would bring together representatives from state agencies like the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Minnesota Department of Health to provide guidance for local governments as they navigate permitting, environmental reviews, and other issues related to the frac sand industry. Rep. Tim Kelly, a Republican from Red Wing, has introduced companion legislation in the House, and both measures have gained early bipartisan support. . . .
The article doesn't supply a bill number, so readers would have to do a bit of digging, since Miller isn't the chief author of any bill related to silica sand mining, however heroic the Daily News wants to paint his portrait.
He did sign on to two bills that match the paper's description, however: SF1258 (chief author Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato) and SF1257 (chief author Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing). The latter bill, introduced by Schmit, is the companion bill to Kelly's HF1367.
Neither senate bill has received a hearing--while in the House, Rep. Rick Hansen's (DFL-South St. Paul) bill was heard and moved on Wednesday. It places technical assistance and some environmental review in the hands of the EBQ, but doesn't call for an GEIS or a state-wide moratorium on new projects, as we posted in First MN House committee hearing on industrial sand mining sends Hansen's HF906 forward.
Rather, a far different Schmit bill is making its way through the state senate:
Miller isn’t the only state senator to direct his attention to the issue this session. Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, introduced a bill in February calling for a statewide environmental review of the frac sand industry, the formation of a regional council to oversee regulation and development, and enabling the taxation of sand at the local and state levels.
That bill has passed out of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee and the State and Local Government Committee, and will be forwarded to the Senate Finance Committee for further discussion. . . .
The bill that Schmit is shepherding through is favorably received by citizens across sand country, if letter sections are an accurate barometer. Vince Ready writes from St. Charles to the Winona Daily News to ask that the legislature Help protect our rural way of life by passing Schmit's bill.
In Red Wing, Larry Sonnek writes the Republican Eagle to chide Representative Kelly in Why won't House bill have moratorium?
In the Mankato Free Press, water quality expert and Lime Township resident Beth Proctor asks that we Urge legislators to protect drinking water by voting for SF786. From Waseca, 82-year-old Maynard Buland writes to say Water is more vital than gas or oil. Gary D. Rowles of North Mankato writes that The quality of our drinking water must be protected.
Meanwhile, back in the Rochester Post Bulletin, Brian Todd reported Wednesday that the St. Charles City Council vote derails silica sand project:
A unanimous vote from St. Charles' city council Tuesday night put the Minnesota Proppant silica-sand processing and transportation project on life support.
All that is needed now is for Winona County to officially pull the plug.
"On behalf of the Concerned Citizens, I thank you for adopting the resolution," said Travis Lange, spokesman for Concerned Citizens for St. Charles, a group that has worked to end the frac-sand project. "It's in the best interest of the city as a whole."
Stymied by the citizen resistance to their mammoth project, the group of investors has dissolved. The Star Tribune's Tony Kennedy reports in Collapse of St. Charles frac sand project causes split among investors:
The collapse of a major frac sand proposal in Winona County has caused a split among investors in the project, with one faction pulling out in frustration over Minnesota’s anti-frac sand sentiment.
“Me and my partners split up. They went to Wisconsin,” said Rick Frick, one of two remaining principals in Minnesota Proppant LLC. “Were they fed up? Yes, that had a lot to do with it.”
Read the rest at the Star Tribune.
Photo: Yes, it's a frac sand train wreck.
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