The Star Tribune's Tony Kennedy reports in Dwindling frac sand legislation rests on trout stream setbacks:
Environmental activists who pushed ambitious legislation to slow the advance of frac sand mining in Minnesota have been soundly defeated on their central proposals and, with less than two weeks left in the 2013 legislative session, are clinging to a fragile game and fish amendment as their last hope for a substantial breakthrough.
The amendment, which would block excavation within a mile of any trout stream in southeastern Minnesota, is strongly backed by Gov. Mark Dayton as a way to prevent an explosion of sand mining in a region where the state has invested millions of dollars over decades to nurture a blue-ribbon fishery.
But as the session winds down, even that idea is meeting resistance in a Legislature that has been largely receptive to the industry’s message that more regulation is unnecessary and will only kill jobs and economic growth.
“It’s the only substantial [frac sand] standard left this session,’’ said John Lenczewski, executive director of Minnesota Trout Unlimited.
“Everything else is just fluff,’’ said Amy Nelson, a frac sand opponent from the Red Wing area. The trout stream language, which could face a critical vote on the Senate floor as early as Thursday, has been painted by opponents as a de-facto mining ban in southeastern Minnesota. Industry supporters also say the measure is a “slippery slope’’ that could potentially hurt taconite mining on the Iron Range and even the construction aggregate business.
Another factor that the article doesn't take up is that few of the state's major environmental groups issued public policy statements or provided testimony on the proposed legislation. With the exception of Trout Unlimited and Land Stewardship Project, the citizens were largely on their own. (It will be curious to see which groups that stood silent will use this issue for fundraising--we'll let you know).
Kennedy reports that the governor will meet with industry reps today to push for the pro-trout legislation:
But Dayton told reporters Wednesday that he is cautiously optimistic the legislation will move forward.
“I strongly support that position and will do everything I can in conference committee to get it enacted,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the governor scheduled a private meeting for Thursday with industry representatives, labor leaders and the commissioners of the Department of Natural Resources, Pollution Control Agency and Department of Health.
Bluestem hopes that he'll succeed in swaying the legislature where thousands of concerned citizens have failed. Praise goes to freshman senator Matt Schmit for listening to his constituents, unlike Winona area senator Jeremy Miller, who cast a deciding committee vote to kill Schmit's trout stream protection.
Photo: On Tuesday, St. Mary's prof Jane Cowgill, who favors Schmit's bill, held up a "fishstick." The legislature favors Mrs. Paul's over Southeastern Minnesota's trout. Photo by John Kaul.
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